Apr 19, 2024 - News

Comprehensive citywide recycling not expected until 2026

Animated illustration of a hand drawn recycling symbol changing to a flat recycling symbol, and then to a 3d recycling symbol.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Indianapolis is still a couple of years away from a comprehensive citywide recycling program.

Why it matters: Accessibility hurdles and the lack of universal curbside recycling have made Indy's effort to shed its reputation as one of the most wasteful cities a slow process.

Driving the news: Recycling became even more difficult for some residents last month when the free drop-off site at North Mitthoeffer Road and 38th Street closed because of illegal dumping.

State of play: The closures cut the number of free recycling sites to just five within the I-465 loop. Outside the loop, the north side has another three locations, while the south side has four, the east side has just one and the west side has zero.

Between the lines: Indianapolis Office of Sustainability director Morgan Mickelson told Axios that many of Indy's drop-off sites exist because of agreements with private partners.

  • "It's at the discretion of the property owner as to when and how long they want to host these sites … and we certainly have had experiences with too much illegal dumping (resulting in) the property owner asking us to remove those sites from our offerings," she said.

Outside one of the 13 remaining free drop-off sites, the other option is paying for pickup through Republic Services or WM.

  • A city spokesperson says per a contract with Indy DPW, Republic and WM cannot charge more than $9.75 per month for subscription recycling services in 2024.
  • The price has increased 25 cents each year.
  • The number of monthly subscribers has risen from 29,708 in February 2019 to 34,386 in February 2024.

The big picture: 60% of consumers are confused about what and how to recycle, according to The Recycling Partnership, a national nonprofit — depressing the already-low recycling law compliance rate.

Zoom out: While Indy lags behind as the largest city in the country without universal curbside, comparable communities like Columbus, Ohio, are praised for successful recycling and composting programs.

What's next: The city adopted a sustainability and resilience action plan in 2019 that calls for carbon neutrality by 2050.

  • The plan originally aimed to offer free universal residential curbside recycling and subscription curbside composting to all residents by 2025.
  • But now new recycling services aren't expected to start until 2026, after existing contracts expire in 2025.

What we're watching: Indy DPW director Brandon Herget says new free recycling drop-off locations should be announced in the coming months.

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