Ready to recycle: Cummins brings back popular community-wide event to a large crowd

Cummins Inc. brought back its Community Wide Recycling Day to Columbus Thursday after a two-year absence caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A number of observers said they believed the recycling day attracted one of the largest crowds in the event’s history.

Starting at 7 a.m., a long line of cars and trucks extended non-stop from the south side of Cummins Engine Plant 1 to the traffic signal east of the plant on Central Avenue.

“The line has been continuous and never has stopped,” said Dan Sutton of the Columbus/Bartholomew County Recycling Center.

As in the past, several different areas were established to drop off particular types of items, with dozens of volunteers either guiding people to the correct location or unloading cars and trucks.

Joe Suever of Columbus said he came with books, shoes, batteries and outdated computer items to recycle.

While he regularly recycles his waste items, the Cummins employee said this event has always been special to him.

“They recycle more stuff than other places,” Suever said.

Unfortunately, a few things have developed in the last two years that placed limitations on Thursday’s event, volunteer Kristin Bucklew said.

“The costs (charged by recycling vendors) have increased, and we were placed on a budget this year,” Bucklew said. “It’s been a real challenge.”

For those reasons, the Cummins event was not able to accept refrigerators, air conditioning units, propane tanks, Styrofoam, tractor tires, light bulbs, thermometers, chemicals, pesticides, bricks, pavers and concrete blocks.

Another event volunteer, Breanna Adams, says she was surprised that Cummins was unable to find a vendor who would accept certain types of plastic, including bags.

The challenge is that the market for recycled materials is down. That wasn’t a problem in 2015 when the city of Columbus actually received part of the profits that a vendor, Ray’s Trash Service of Clayton, earned by selling the recyclable items.

But last year, the city had to start paying Ray’s $12 a ton to take away items. Bryan Burton, director for the department of public works, said in an interview last year that the cost could go up to $20 per ton by 2026.

So what were the items that most people brought?

“The main things have been, car tires and paint,” Adams said. “We’ve taken a lot of paint this year.”

In the past, many Cummins employees said they viewed the event as another team effort to serve the community, which is why they want to take part in it.

One of them is Brett Merritt, who brought an assortment of items in his pickup truck.

“I know a lot of the people who are here, so I try to collect recyclables and utilize the service,” Merritt said. “I picked up some items from my parents and my neighbors and brought them over.“