Plagued by bad behavior at six drop-off recycling sites, Porter County Recycling staff has changed the way the agency operates its service.
The drop-off sites provide new boxes with locked lids that feature restricted openings to help discourage contamination; however, service changes may not stop there if user behavior doesn’t improve. GET THE RECYCLING GUIDELINES HERE!
“If the behavior does not change, it is possible that this drop-off service will eventually end,” said Therese Haller, Porter County Recycling executive director. “A few could ruin it for everyone.”
Under the district’s new contract with Republic Services, the waste hauler will no longer recycle the contents of the drop-off recycling boxes with more than 10 percent contamination; instead, all of the contents will be landfilled at an additional cost.
Contamination occurs when items that are not recyclable are mixed in with correct materials.
Porter County Recycling, a government agency, operates drop-off recycling sites in Burns Harbor, Chesterton, Valparaiso, Hebron, Boone Grove and Kouts that are well used by residents; some are without access to curbside recycling, like those who live in apartments and condos. Other residents use the drop boxes when their curbside recycling totes overflow with materials.
The drop-off sites accept the same items that Northwest Indiana residents can place in their curbside totes or bins like plastic bottles, tubs and jugs; aluminum and metal cans; glass bottles and jars; cartons; paper and cardboard.
“Ideally we would like to move to staffed sites, so we can monitor what is placed in the boxes and only accept appropriate material,” Haller said. “This will mean restricted access to the boxes and fewer convenient locations.”
The solid waste district isn’t alone in feeling the effects of the international recycling crisis. As contracts with waste haulers get renegotiated, municipalities across Northwest Indiana are faced with this additional contamination challenge and cost.
Larger amounts of contamination were acceptable until earlier this year when countries like China, the United States’ largest consumer of recyclables, said it would no longer purchase materials mixed with trash.
In order to sell collected recyclables to China and other countries, material recovery facilities (MRFs) around the world that sort recyclables are pushing back at waste haulers, municipalities and residents to greatly reduce contamination or face increased recycling rates and reduced recycling services.
“Now more than ever, we need quality over quantity when it comes to what residents place in their curbside recycling totes,” Haller said. “When in doubt, throw it out.”
Haller said residents should think about their recyclables as products that a company will buy.
“If your materials are not appropriate, empty or clean, no one wants them,” she said. “If you place contamination in your curbside recycling bin or in our drop-off boxes, you are doing everyone a disservice, including the individuals who are recycling right.
“It doesn’t matter who collects your recyclables in Northwest Indiana. All materials go to sorting facilities in Illinois, where they are managed, baled and sold,” she said. “These guidelines are directly from those facilities.”