Columbus residents have disposed of more than 1,400 tons of recyclable materials during the first eight months of the city’s new curbside recycling program, which allows people to recycle items without stepping off their property.

But this weekend, local sanitation officials are offering extra incentives to encourage residents across the county not only to recycle, but to do so in a public setting — increasing awareness about reusing items and preserving the local environment.

As part of the nationwide America Recycles Day, the Bartholomew County Solid Waste Management District will reward residents who visit recycling locations around the county Friday.

During “Get Caught Recycling,” waste management employees will surprise residents with special gifts if they are caught disposing recyclable items in select bins, said Ross Keller, education coordinator for the waste management district.

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Times and locations where employees will be will remain a secret until Friday so recyclers will truly be caught in the act, Keller said.

The waste management district is also staying mum on the rewards it will give out, but prizes will align with the day’s recycling theme, he said.

Bartholomew County residents recycled about 70 tons of cardboard — generally the most commonly recycled item locally — from January through September of this year, Keller said. Cardboard often emerges from the recycling process as paper bags or new cardboard boxes.

While he acknowledges that 70 tons is quite a bit of recycled material, Keller said that number is slightly down from last year. Friday’s rewards will hopefully help bump up the county’s overall recycling totals for cardboard and other materials, he said.

Generally more appealing than a prize for recycling is the incentive of monetary gain, which is what the waste management district is tapping into with Saturday’s Amnesty Day.

Residents with items that are usually hard to dispose of — such as tires or refrigerants — can bring those items to the Columbus/Bartholomew County Recycling Center and dispose of them for free.

Amnesty Day recyclables include:

Up to four tires, pick-up truck size or smaller, with rims removed.

Up to two CFC or refrigerant-containing appliances.

Up to two propane gas tanks.

Recycling those items for free on Amnesty Day could save residents up to $50, Keller said.

Drop-off traffic falls

Previously, the recycling center served up to 250 residents a day with its drive-thru recycling option, which allows residents to stay in their vehicles while waste management employees remove recyclables from the cars. But with the onset of the Columbus curbside recycling program in February, traffic at the center has dropped to about 50 patrons a day, said Rex King, center manager.Despite the drop-off in the recycling center’s traffic, the curbside recycling program has actually led to an increase in recycling interest across the city, said Bryan Burton, director of the city’s Department of Public Works.When curbside recycling began in February 2015, Columbus quickly hit the 1,000-participant mark, then continued on a steady incline, Burton said.

“We had a fast start compared to a lot of other communities,” he said.

Today, more than 8,400 residents are participating in the program, which accepts certain plastics, magazines, paper, cans, steel and glass.

About a dozen new residents sign-up for the program each week, Burton said, and roughly 80 percent of all registered participants put their toters out each week for collection.

But recycling is about more than just getting rid of unwanted items — it’s about creating an environment that will be cleaner and safe for generations to come, said Kathy Caldi, a life-skills teaching assistant at Columbus East High School who started the school’s recycling program nearly a decade ago.

From her perspective, Caldi said Columbus, as a whole, is much more cognizant of the importance of recycling today than it was even five years ago.

However, there is always room for improvement and increased awareness, which is why she works with local students to inspire them to make recycling a priority.

In some cities she has visited, recycling bins are overflowing while the garbage cans are half empty, Caldi said.

Although it will likely be several more years before Columbus reaches that point, every action the city takes to promote recycling is a step in the right direction, she said.

“It should be second nature,” Caldi said.

If you go

America Recycles Day/Get Caught Recycling

  • When: Friday
  • Where: Local recycling locations
  • What: Prizes will be given to local recyclers

Amnesty Day

  • When: Saturday, 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.
  • Where: Columbus/Bartholomew County Recycling Center, 720 S. Mapleton St., Columbus
  • What: Bartholomew County residents can drop off hard-to-dispose-of items for free

Deja Vu Art and Fine Craft Show

  • When: Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Where: The Commons, 300 Washington St., Columbus
  • Cost: Free
  • What: View and purchase art created from recycled materials by 60 local artists

Recycling center hours/curbside recycling sign-up

Bartholomew County residents without curbside recycling have two main options for dropping off unwanted household items.

The first is the Columbus/Bartholomew County Recycling Center, 720 South Mapleton St., Columbus, open to all Bartholomew County residents. The recycling center is open to businesses on Mondays from 7:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Residential drive-thru recycling is available:

  • Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, 8 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday and Thursday, 7:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Satellite recycling locations are open from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. Saturday at:

  • Petersville, 11110 25th St., Columbus (weekly).
  • Harrison Township, 10293 Old Nashville Road, Columbus (weekly).
  • Hope: Next to utility garage, 529 Mill St. (second and fourth Saturdays)

Sign up for curbside recycling

The curbside recycling program is only for Columbus residents who live in either single-family homes or apartment complexes with four or fewer units. To sign up for curbside recycling:

On the Web

For more information on recycling, visit the solid waste management district website at

Author photo
Olivia Covington is a reporter for The Republic. She can be reached at or 812-379-5712.