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Recycling: Just put it on the curb?

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Citywide curbside recycling could be coming to Columbus next year.

Mayor Kristen Brown has proposed spending $204,000 in taxpayer dollars in the city’s 2015 budget to pay part of the cost for a residential curbside recycling program.

That money would pay for two new full-time employees to operate a recycling truck, fuel and costs for disposal of recycled materials. From taxpayer funds, the employees would each make about $39,000 a year, not counting overtime and benefits; and $18,000 would be allocated for fuel.

The remainder of the cost — including initial startup costs approaching $1 million — is expected to be picked up by a growing list of private partners, including Cummins Inc. and at least 15 other companies which support residential curbside recycling without opt-in user charges.

Some of the companies have agreed to contribute toward a new recycling truck, expected to cost about $250,000, and to provide up to 10,000 96-gallon toters to local residents, according to the mayor and Cummins Inc. spokesman Jon Mills.

Brown said the city priced toters at about $70, which would put that cost at about $700,000, although the mayor said Cummins might be able to get a better price.

Companies that have expressed their support or agreed to help pay for curbside recycling initial costs so far include: Analytical Engineering Inc.; Anixter Fasteners; Boyer Machine and Tool Co. Inc.; Centra Credit Union; Duke Energy; Elwood Staffing; Force Construction; LHP Software; Owens Communications; Faurecia Emissions Control Technologies;

Johnson-Witkemper and Celadon.

The city and the companies are still determining how much each of the private partners would donate toward the curbside recycling program.

How would it work?

Columbus residents would be able to sign up for the program and receive a 96-gallon toter for all recyclable items, including plastics, glass, aluminum and other metals and paper products. Their recyclables then would be picked up on a bi-weekly basis.

The city plans to hire two additional full-time employees, the costs for which include:

  • $77,833 for hourly wages
  • $6,737 for overtime
  • $41,688 for insurance and other benefits

There also would be an annual cost, estimated at $30,000, for fees related to disposal of recyclables and an $18,000 increase in diesel fuel costs.

A recycling program is expected to reduce the city’s landfill dumping fees, as the county landfill charges $27.50 per ton of waste. Those savings are estimated at $25,000 for next year.

The local business community has long been interested in a curbside recycling program, said Mills, external communications director for Cummins.

“After working with the city, a number of partners, including Cummins, have agreed to provide the initial capital necessary to fund the toters and the automated truck,” Mills said. “As a company we are pleased to be working with community partners, local businesses and our local government to implement the citywide recycling plan. It’s another step forward to really make Columbus a world–class city and that will further help businesses like ours recruit and retain top talent.”

The city’s proposal calls for the recycling program to pick up plastics, glass, aluminum and other metals and paper products along residential routes.

“We have good options to recycle today, but people would like to have the convenience of curbside pickup,” said Brown, who indicated the public-private partnership would be able to enhance current offerings, which require residents to personally drop off items for recycling.

“I think this will be well-received,” the mayor said.

Commercial business within the city limits could continue to recycle corrugated cardboard and some paper products for free up to three times a week through a program offered by a partnership between the city and the Bartholomew County Solid Waste Management District.

The proposed budget also estimates the city will save at least $25,000 by reducing the amount of waste it dumps in the county landfill, which charges $27.50 per ton of waste.

But local businessman Marc Nehring said while a recycling program would benefit the community, he isn’t sure the city’s waste management practices will lead to a successful citywide curbside program.

Nehring and his wife, Jasmyn, already offer curbside recycling for a fee through their company, Waste Servant, launched last year. Waste Servant picks up recyclables from both residential and commercial clients every other week.

Waste Servant services are billed at $16 a month, according to the company’s website, and require a $15 startup fee.

Should the city council approve funding for the program, his business would be affected, but Nehring said he would adjust by growing his county and small-business operations.

Because trash services are covered by taxes, the city’s policies do not encourage or create an incentive to recycle, Nehring said. That shows up in a low rate of recycling, he said.

A report from a local committee studying recycling shows that the city recycled only 12.5 percent of its residential solid waste in 2012.

Most communities with high recycling participation rates charge for trash collection per unit to help cover landfill fees and then provide recycling at no additional charge, Nehring said.

In those cities and towns, people associate everything they throw away with a direct cost, giving them a reason to shift their behavior and start recycling items rather than tossing them into the trash.

In Columbus, there isn’t a direct cost to users, Nehring said.

Rumpke Waste & Recycling offered a citywide program until about 10 years ago, but stopped it due to low participation rates — with about 1,000 people signed up and willing to pay $4.50 a month.

Rumpke now offers curbside recycling services for about 200 residents in the Tipton Lakes area for $5 a month as part of a pilot program, company spokesperson Sara Cullin said.

When the city tried to implement a pay-as-you-throw proposal in 2010 without also offering curbside recycling, residents became upset and pushed city officials to do away with the program, which ended in 2012.

“There was no appetite for there to be any additional fees,” Brown said.

Nehring and his wife want to make sure there is a serious discussion with residents about the program so whatever ultimately happens can make Columbus better.

Mills said curbside recycling is in line with Cummins’ values because of the many environmental benefits it provides.

“It reduces the footprint, saves water and energy and reduces (greenhouse gas) emissions and those are all things we support,” he said.

City officials estimate one truck and driver will be able to accommodate up to a 40 percent participation rate. Once participation increases beyond 40 percent, a second truck and driver will be needed.

Brown said the city is continuing to negotiate with private partners in hopes of obtaining a commitment to fund that second truck when the time comes as well.

Mills said while it’s not the first time a curbside recycling initiative has been proposed, he believes the time is right for successful implementation.

“We are hoping this continued collaboration by partners, city leaders and council members will bring it to fruition,” Mills said. “It will be great for the city, great for the community and another way that really exemplifies that Columbus is a jewel in the state of Indiana.”

Recycling in Columbus and Bartholomew County

City and county residents can now take recyclable materials to one of five locations:

Harrison Township site, located at 10293 Old Nashville Road: accepts glass, cardboard and paper. Open Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Kroger roll-off container, located at 3110 N. National Road: accepts metal, glass and plastic. Residents can access the site 24/7.

Columbus/Bartholomew Recycling Center, located at 720 S. Mapleton St.: accepts paper products, most metals, glass bottles and jars, some computers and electronics and clean vinyl siding. Open Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and Tuesday and Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Bartholomew County Landfill, located at 811 E. County Road 450S: accepts most metals, glass bottles and jars, cardboard, paper, computers and tires. Open Monday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Pettersville convenience station, located at 11110 25th St.: accepts glass bottles and jars, cardboard, paper and plastics. Open Saturdays 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

There are also private service providers which offer recycling options for residents:

Paper Retriever: provides green and yellow recycling bins to qualifying organizations to collect all types of paper. For more information, call 1-800-874-1301 or visit

Speedy Shred: offers document shredding and recycling locally for businesses and residents. For more information, call 812-376-6364.

Waste Servant: provides curbside recycling and donation pickup for residents, businesses and some local events, at a cost of $16 per month. For more information, call 812-603-0734 or visit

Rumpke Waste & Recycling: provides curbside recycling for the Tipton Lakes area for $5 a month and is considering expanding its services. For more information, call 1-800-832-5025 or visit

Recycling across Indiana

Here’s how other cities and towns in Indiana handle waste management, including recycling, according to their official websites:

Bloomington: Curbside recycling is free, but each bag of trash and yard waste is $2

Evansville: Residents pay $10.65 per household monthly for garbage and recycling collection

Fort Wayne: Households pay $9.95 per month for garbage and recycling collection

Greenwood: Charges $13.47 per household per month for garbage and recycling

Indianapolis: Charges $6 per month for curbside recycling.

Valparaiso: Free curbside recycling; $12 per month for trash collection services

West Lafayette: Charges $16 per household per month for garbage, recycling and yard waste removal

Zionsville: Charges $9.90 per household per month for garbage and recycling services

Companies supporting the city’s plan

Multiple local businesses have expressed support for the city’s plan to kick off a city-wide recycling initiative, including:

  • Analytical Engineering Inc.
  • Anixter Fasteners
  • Boyer Machine and Tool Co. Inc.
  • Centra Credit Union
  • Cummins Inc.
  • Duke Energy
  • Elwood Staffing
  • Force Construction
  • LHP Software
  • Owens Communications
  • Faurecia Emissions Control Technologies
  • Johnson-Witkemper
  • Celadon

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