Plagued by bad
behavior at six drop-off recycling sites, Porter County Recycling & Waste
Reduction District staff is changing the way the agency operates its
The drop-off sites
will offer new boxes with locked lids that feature restricted openings to
help discourage contamination; however, service changes may not stop there
if user behavior doesn’t improve.
“If the behavior
does not change, it is possible that this drop-off service will eventually
end,” said Therese Haller, Porter County Recycling executive director. “A
few could ruin it for everyone.”
occurs when items that are not recyclable are mixed in with correct
district’s new contract with Republic Services, the waste hauler will no
longer recycle the contents of the drop-off recycling boxes with more than
10 percent contamination; instead, all of the contents will be landfilled at
an additional cost.
Recycling, a government agency, operates drop-off recycling sites in Burns
Harbor, Chesterton, Valparaiso, Hebron, Boone Grove, and Kouts that are well
used by residents; some are without access to curbside recycling, like those
who live in apartments and condos. Other residents use the drop boxes when
their curbside recycling totes overflow with materials.
The drop-off sites
accept the same items that Northwest Indiana residents can place in their
curbside totes or bins like plastic bottles, tubs and jugs, aluminum and
metal cans, glass bottles and jars, cartons, paper and cardboard.
“Ideally we would
like to move to staffed sites, so we can monitor what is placed in the boxes
and only accept appropriate material,” Haller said. “This will mean
restricted access to the boxes and fewer convenient locations.”
The solid waste
district isn’t alone in feeling the effects of the international recycling
crisis. As contracts with waste haulers get renegotiated, municipalities
across Northwest Indiana are faced with this additional contamination
challenge and increased costs.
Larger amounts of
contamination were acceptable until earlier this year when countries like
China, the United States’ largest consumer of recyclables, said it would no
longer purchase materials mixed with trash.
In order to sell
collected recyclables to China and other countries, material recovery
facilities (MRFs) around the world that sort recyclables are pushing back at
waste haulers, municipalities and residents to greatly reduce contamination
or face increased recycling rates and reduced recycling services.
“Now more than
ever, we need quality over quantity when it comes to what residents place in
their curbside recycling totes,” Haller said. “When in doubt, throw it out.”
residents should think about their recyclables as products that a company
“If your materials
are not appropriate, empty or clean, no one wants them,” she said. “If you
place contamination in your curbside recycling bin or in our drop-off boxes,
you are doing everyone a disservice, including the individuals who are
Recycling provides recycling guidelines for Lake, Porter and LaPorte
“It doesn’t matter
who collects your recyclables in Northwest Indiana. All materials go to
sorting facilities in Illinois, where they are managed, baled and sold,” she
said. “These guidelines are directly from those facilities.”