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UPDATE: Governor to sign Indiana recycling bill

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Gov. Mike Pence will sign legislation that sets a goal for Indiana of eventually recycling at least half of the municipal waste in the state, his spokeswoman said Wednesday.

The proposal, which lawmakers passed last week with support from some of the state's big manufacturers, will also create a recycling-tracking system to help chart the state's progress toward its new goal.

Pence spokeswoman Kara Brooks said the bill had not yet reached the governor's desk as of Wednesday, but he will sign it into law as part of his legislative agenda. Brooks said Pence believes "it is time for a fresh look at recycling in Indiana."

The bill authored by state Rep. David Wolkins, R-Warsaw, originally called for Indiana to meet the 50-percent municipal-recycling goal by 2019. But Wolkins said lawmakers removed that deadline because it's unclear what percentage of Indiana's municipal waste is currently recycled.

"They were afraid to put in an actual date until we find out exactly how bad we are," he said Wednesday. "If we're down in the 10- to 15-percent range, it might take us a long time to get there."

Once the state's current recycling rate for waste generated by cities, towns and counties is determined, Wolkins said lawmakers will likely set a date for reaching the 50-percent goal.

Indiana Recycling Coalition Executive Director Carey Hamilton said the legislation will create jobs and shift municipal waste away from Indiana's landfills and into the hands of industries that can reuse materials such as glass and aluminum. She said a study released last year by the Indianapolis-based coalition found that recycling 25 percent of what Hoosiers currently dispose of would create about 10,000 new in-state jobs.

"We know very clearly that we need more investment at the community level to actually get the material out of the waste stream and to manufacturers," Hamilton said.

Several large Indiana manufacturers supported the bill, including Verallia North America, a glass maker with operations in Muncie, and Alcoa Inc., an aluminum maker with three Indiana operations.

Jim Beck, a spokesman for Alcoa in Indiana, said the company supported Wolkins' bill as part of its larger efforts to increase the nation's recycling rate for aluminum cans to 75 percent by 2015. He said Alcoa estimates that Indiana residents use more than 2 billion aluminum cans each year, but recycle less than 35 percent of them.

"So that means that about 50 million pounds of aluminum cans that could be recycled in Indiana aren't," Beck said.

Wolkins' bill also directs a summer study committee to look at a variety of ways to improve Indiana's municipal recycling rate, such as bottle-deposit laws that have dramatically increased glass recycling in other states.

He said the committee will "look at every possible practice" and some of the panel's findings will likely end up in recycling legislation next session.

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