Indianapolis should abandon Covanta deal

March 21, 2015

Indianapolis’ agreement with Covanta to combine its waste incinerator operation with a recycling program is not a done deal. A lawsuit in Marion County Superior Court is challenging it on the grounds that the $112 million agreement was forged behind closed doors without public input or competitive bidding.

The deal also will hamper Indianapolis’ recycling potential and the state’s recycling industry.

It would have each household throw waste and recyclables into a single bin, and let Covanta sort out recyclables.

But there are numerous problems:

• After billing this as a way to engage the entire community in recycling, in court the city repeatedly said this is “simply about the disposal of solid waste.”

• It’s dirty. Because everything is thrown together, many recyclable products will become contaminated.

• It burns recyclables. Covanta will not separate glass at all, and it will not recycle many plastics typically captured in curbside recycling programs.

• Because Covanta operates the trash incinerator, it has an incentive to pass more refuse to the incinerator than to recyclers.

• The city will be financially penalized if we fail to deliver enough trash to Covanta.

• In a state that has declared a 50-percent recycling goal, Covanta has a non-enforceable 18 percent target.

• It hurts a sizable industry with growth potential. The 77 Indiana firms that use recycled materials in their manufacturing processes employ 35,000 Hoosiers.

• Covanta has never operated a plant like the one it proposes—and offers no evidence to show it will be successful.

• Alternatives have not been tried. Communities that make recycling bins available to all citizens at no cost see sharp increases in recycling.

Regardless of what the judge rules, Mayor Ballard can still get out of the Covanta contract. Indianapolis deserves better recycling.

Carey Hamilton, executive director
Indiana Recycling Coalition

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