Watch video: Cummins, residents work together for environment

Bangs, clinks and crashes rang outside the Cummins’ Columbus Engine Plant as volunteers directed cars through a makeshift double-lane drive-thru recycling center.

This year’s seventh annual Community-Wide Recycling Day could exceed 50 tons of recyclable materials being turned in by area residents, organizers said.

It happens once a year at the plant, where hundreds of Cummins employees don orange and yellow safety vests and take a day to give back to the local community.

Between 5 a.m. and 11 a.m., 447 cars lined up to drop off everything from computer equipment to tires and buckets of paint or piles of paper. The event was scheduled to conclude at 6 p.m. Thursday.

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For Jeff Hurd, Columbus engine plant manager, Community-Wide Recycling Day is the best day of the year.

“It makes me proud that we can work with the community and help them clean out some goods that they wouldn’t know how to dispose of any other time,” said Hurd, who has participated in the event every year. “We just appreciate the opportunity to help them. It’s for the community.”

More than 200 Cummins employees volunteered for two- to four-hour shifts throughout the day. Each person was stationed at a certain area for different types of materials, including Cummins intern Bailey Harrell, who spent her morning unloading electronics from vehicles.

Harrell, a University of Florida student, is spending her summer in Columbus working at the Cummins engine plant. When she first found out about the recycling day event, she was looking forward to being a volunteer.

“It’s a really good day obviously,” Harrell said. “People are recycling and keeping the world more sustainable. It’s really cool how there are so many volunteers — too many volunteers almost. Everybody’s excited to do better for the community.”

Once a year opportunity

Cummins’ Community-Wide Recycling Day, held every summer, is an opportunity for Bartholomew County residents to unload hard-to-recycle items like appliances, oil and paint at no cost. The company partners with area recycling firms who set up individual booths at the event and properly store, transport and later recycle items that are dropped off.

The event is just one of several programs the Cummins Engine Plant hosts throughout the month in conjunction with the company’s observance of Environmental Month.

Cummins employees focus on a different environmental theme of energy, water or waste reduction each week in June. Every Cummins plant is encouraged to plan engaging, educational and hands-on environmental events at work and in the community, said Pat Cotter, the engine plant’s environmental manager.

Recycling Day just happens to be an event that meet all three, being engaging, educational and hands-on.

Heather Hirt, who organized the recycling day for Cummins, started planning back in April, contacting vendors and sending recruitment emails seeking volunteers.

“It just makes you happy that people are interested in recycling and that they’re able to join the community and just come together,” she said.

Cummins employee Jonathan Wickliff was unable to volunteer at this year’s event, but dropped off used electronics and motor oil during his lunch break. He said Thursday offered the perfect opportunity to recycle responsibly.

“It was very organized, very quick,” Wickliff said. “It’s a great opportunity for people to get rid of stuff that they don’t necessarily know how to recycle properly. It’s a great awareness event for how you can recycle.”

Wickliff was only in line for five minutes. All he had to do was pop open his trunk and let the volunteers do the rest.

Erich Miller of Columbus also donated used oil, as well as old batteries. This year was Miller’s first time donating to the recycling event, and he’s happy he did.

“I thought it was nice that people would take their time to take my stuff,” he said. “It’s a nice service to the community.”

Breaking records

In 2016, Recycling Day attracted 1,023 consumer drop-offs, with 50 tons of materials collected and recycled. Hirt said there is no set goal this year, but that she hopes to surpass last year’s totals.

The most popular items being recycled were electronics, motor oil and tires, Hurd said.

One of the reasons electronics might have been on the minds of area residents is that beginning July 1, Bartholomew County will begin charging a $20 fee to recycle televisions and computer monitors at the Columbus/Bartholomew Recycling Center or the county landfill.

Last year, 39,626 pounds of E-waste were recycled at the event. With several big screen televisions and boxes full of computer monitors and towers, Cotter said Cummins was on track to surpass last year’s total.

All items donated during Thursday’s 12-hour event were sorted out to individual recycling companies. All tires, paper, metal and plastic are being handled by Ray’s Trash Service, while Green Live Computer Recycling handled the computer items.

“From the people driving up and donating their recyclable materials, they’re really excited that they have somewhere to put it and not just in a landfill,” Harrell said. “We’re filling up too much of the world with landfills so they’re excited to be able to give back to the Earth and give their products that they’ve used in some way to turn into reusable products for somebody else.”

More recycling opportunities

Missed Cummins’ Community-Wide Recycling Day?

Here’s where you can recycle:

  • Columbus/Bartholomew Recycling Center, 720 S. Mapleton St., open 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday
  • Harrison Township Site, 10293 Old Nashville Road, open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday
  • Petersville Convenience Station, 11110 25th St., open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday
  • Bartholomew County Landfill, 811 E. County Road 450S, 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday

For a list of what each site accepts, visit bcswmd.com/recyclingcenter.php.

To sign up for Columbus city-wide curbside recycling, visit columbus.in.gov/public-works/columbus-recycles/