Recycling advocates want better system in Indiana

Steel recycling bales

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Recycling advocates are urging leaders to re-evaluate Indiana’s recycling system, which they say is plagued with issues including a lack of locally sourced recycling material for businesses and landfills filling with recyclable goods.

Many businesses pay extra to acquire raw materials from out of state because there isn’t enough local material, The Indianapolis Star reported.

Knauf Insulation of Shelbyville imports nearly all of the recycled glass bottles that it turns into insulation, said Scott Miller, the company’s sustainability director.

More than 70 companies statewide regularly use recycled materials, such as plastic, paper and glass, according to a 2013 study by Ball State University. But other companies say they would also use recycled materials if it was more readily available.

Increasing the state’s recycling rate could create jobs, making the state’s recycling companies more competitive and make the state more attractive to businesses, said Allyson Mitchell, the executive director of the Indiana Recycling Coalition, which advocates for recycling on behalf of businesses, municipalities and environmental groups.

“Here’s our moment,” she said. “This is an opportunity for us to build a system where the conditions are optimal, so that when all of the (recycling) commodity prices rebound, we’re in a good spot to take full advantage of that.”

The state’s recycling system is also seeing problems with local landfills. More than half the material in the state’s landfills is paper, plastic or glass, which could be recycled, according to a study by the Purdue University Calumet.

Starting efforts to divert recyclable material from the landfills could generate 20,000 new jobs in Indiana, the recycling coalition’s study found.

Many businesses are already turning their attention to recycling efforts to improve sustainability and attract customers. A robust recycling system can also ensure companies have access to affordable materials, said Rob Taylor, senior assistance specialist at nonprofit The Recycling Partnership.

Companies “know that securing recycled feedstock from recovered materials is something that they can rely on 25 years from now, no matter what happens to oil markets,” Taylor said.

Companies are also working to attract consumers who are becoming more concerned with companies’ impacts on climate change and pollution, said Scott Mouw, senior research director of strategy and research for The Recycling Partnership.

Consumers “want the people they buy their products from to be contributing to solutions,” Mouw said.

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