Glass recycling set to return to Vigo County

By Paul Ploumis

In late August, glass recycling free to the public will return to Vigo County.

Karrum Nasser, executive director of the Vigo County Solid Waste Management District, has reached a three-year contract agreement with Strategic Materials Inc. in Indianapolis.

Strategic Materials will haul glass for $100 per container, charged to the district, under the agreement. The company also provides the container, which Nasser plans to repaint for use at the district's recycling center at 3230 E. Haythorne Ave.

"We will paint it green, which is a universal recycling color, so it will be a standalone open-top container for glass alone," he said. "It has bars along the top to protect it from kids or others from climbing in."

To be clear, residents should not add glass to their current, at-home recycling containers being picked up by Republic Services. Republic does not accept glass. This service provided by the waste district is for Vigo County residents and will be for drop-off at the Haythorne Avenue location only.

In addition, a new concrete pad will be installed for the large metal container. Nasser plans to submit bids for that work for approval next month before the Vigo County Solid Waste District board.

The district now has two 30-yard containers that each hold about 1 1/2 ton of recyclables, each on a concrete pad, for recycling; they are are emptied daily. The district has increased its overall recycling from 8 tons a month to about 35 tons per month, Nasser said.

The glass has to be held in its own container because if glass is dumped in a container for cardboard and plastics, that entire container has to be sent to the landfill, Nasser said. Glass fragments cannot efficiently be removed from the cardboard.

Glass recycling stopped in 2020 amid COVID-19, with the main recycling location at Indiana State University closed. The university reopened its recycling center in 2021, but no longer accepts glass and plastic.

The glass recycling program, Nasser said, remains contingent on the public's support and proper recycling to avoid contamination.

Nasser said the district's contamination rate for recycling is about 10%, whereas the national industry rate is 15%, as the district educates about recycling. In addition, the district has multiple cameras monitoring its recycling center to help monitor what items are placed in containers.

Examples of contamination include plastic bags dumped with plastic bottles. The bags damage sorting equipment. Other contamination, Nasser said, is what he calls "wishful recycling, where if someone thinks that if they put it in a bin it will get recycled. Like in the summer, people get new garden hoses and people will put old hoses in there hoping they are recycled. They are not — you are supposed to repair your hose," Nasser said.

On Wednesday, Terre Haute resident Dick Frank dropped off recycling. He stopped into Nasser's office specifically asking about glass recycling. Frank said he was happy to learn glass recycling will return.

"We have been waiting for this. We used to recycle glass," Frank said. "We have been recycling for years and glass is part of recycling. We primarily did that at ISU, and they shut down for COVID and never reopened for glass."

Terre Haute's recycling is funded from tipping fees from Sycamore Landfill and not from property taxes.

Tipping fees are charges made per ton of waste disposed in the Sycamore Landfill through an agreement with Republic Services. Those fees generated $556,178 in 2021.

Once an exact startup date is set in August, Nasser will make an announcement. In addition, the district will update its website and smartphone application to show glass is accepted for recycling. Also, education literature cards will be produced to answer questions on recycling.

"People are going to ask do you need to take the labels off bottles. The answer is no. People will ask if you have to take the lids off the bottles, like pickle jars and such — you don't. So we will have an educational piece that will go with this," he said.