Manufacturers help drive recycling bill to passage

A state lawmaker who co-authored legislation setting a goal for Indiana to eventually recycle at least half of its municipal waste says the state's resource-hungry manufacturing industry was a key to the bill's passage this year.

Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, said environmental groups had asked the Legislature for years to look at the possibilities for recycling in the state. But this year, Verallia North America, a glass maker, and Alcoa Inc., an aluminum maker, both backed the bill Pierce co-authored and lawmakers approved the measure.

"Even though it's a great opportunity to put in some policies, what's really driving it is these industries," Pierce told the Bloomington Herald-Times.

Gov. Mike Pence signed the measure into law in late March. The law sets a new recycling standard for the state of 50 percent of all municipal waste, although it doesn't set a timeline for reaching that goal.

The legislation also provides for a study committee on recycling in Indiana and will create a recycling-tracking system to help chart the state's progress toward its new goal.

A 2012 study by Purdue University and a 2013 Ball State University study estimated that recyclable items make up between 50 and 65 percent of trash disposed of in landfills or incinerated in Indiana, said Larry Barker, executive director of the Monroe County Solid Waste Management District.

Barker said his southern Indiana district already has a 60-percent recycling rate, but there is plenty of room for improvement and the state's new tracking system will help.

"We'll have a very good picture by region, by county, by transfer station, by landfills as to what is actually trash," he said.

Barker said he hopes that recycling information can advance his long-running proposal for Monroe County to create a waste stream materials recovery facility that would separate glass, paper, aluminum and other recyclables from trash.

Those materials would then be sold to manufacturers—a project Barker has said will create jobs in the county and also be self-sustaining.

Pierce noted that Bloomington and Monroe County already have some of the most progressive recycling programs in Indiana. He said the new state recycling goal could expand those programs further.

"I think the opportunity is here to take programs that we have in Monroe County and scale those up," Pierce said.

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