Recycling is up, but landfill is increasing its gate fee in 2024

This year’s statistics show Columbus and Bartholomew County residents remain committed to recycling.

For the first 11 months of this year, the Bartholomew County Solid Waste Management District received 623 tons of recyclable material from local residents. That’s 17% more than the 533 tons collected in all 12 months of last year, SWMD director Heather Siesel said.

Not included in those figures are the items picked up through the ‘Columbus Recycles’ program, but the city’s numbers reflect the same trend. The program brought in 191 tons of residential recyclables during the first 11 months of this year. That is 3% more that the 185 tons collected through all of 2022, the Columbus Public Works Department said.

Residential recyclables refers to such things as glass, cardboard, paper, books, magazines, scrap metal, #1 and #2 plastic containers, as well as aluminum and steel cans, Siesel said.

Meanwhile, the amount of refuse going into the Bartholomew County Landfill, off County Road 450S, has remained relatively steady, Siesel said.

“The annual tonnage at the landfill has been hovering around 80,000 tons for quite a long time,” said Siesel, who gives recycling much of the credit for extending the life of the landfill.

Both the recycling numbers, as well as an increase in the amount of money the SWMD receives for recyclable cardboard should be considered positive news, Siesel said. Early last month, the district was receiving $75 a ton for cardboard compared to $45 a ton last January.

“A ton of cardboard saves us three cubic yards of landfill space,” the district director said.

But Siesel said her organization has to pay companies to take a number of other recyclables – especially electronics – because there’s little to no demand for their parts in the marketplace. Recycling is costly because it requires labor, trucks, gasoline and several other expenses, she said.

When you factor in the current inflation rate of 3.2% , Siesel says the district has no choice but to generate additional revenue.

Starting in January, gate fees at the Bartholomew County Landfill will rise from $34 a ton to $36 a ton, the district announced Friday.

While this increase will mostly impact businesses such as commercial haulers and contractors, “it’s not out of the question that residents will occasionally come in with large loads,” Siesel said.

One bright spot on the horizon is that the state of Indiana is going to invite solid waste districts to apply for grants for recycling tires, she said.

“We might see the state promoting this a lot, and could see more tire recycling happening,” Siesel said.