- Associated Press - Sunday, March 2, 2014

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) - There’s no money to be made in the world of rural recycling.

Despite hard work, years of promotion and increased citizen participation, money continues to leach from many small-town recycling ventures.

The recycling center in Owen County has been losing money the past four years. Two weeks ago, the center took in $487 in trash and recycling related fees, but paid out $500 in payroll for three part-time workers. The 2013 budget was $100,000, and income generated was just $40,000.

Neighboring Greene County is in a similar sinking boat. The solid waste district’s recycling center in Switz City has been losing money for at least five years, maybe longer, said 12-year employee Tony Thomas. “We used to, years ago, be able to break even, but not anymore,” he told The Herald-Times (https://bit.ly/1klj73w).

They may run out of money long before the year is out.

Heather Witsman, operations director at the Brown County Solid Waste Management District’s recycling center adjacent to the 4-H fairgrounds, said making money at recycling in her small county is an unlikely scenario. “It’s really tight,” she said. “Because of budget cutbacks, we had to start closing on Mondays.”

Income is generated through the sale of commodities collected - steel and aluminum cans, various grades of plastic, glass, newspapers, paper and cardboard. But currently, the only item worth much in the market is cardboard, and in Greene and Owen counties, recycling trucks travel to businesses and pick it up for free to exchange for cash.

Newspaper, on the other hand, doesn’t bring much revenue at 1 penny per pound. That’s a lot of collecting and sorting to get $20 for a ton of newspapers.

Greene County residents can drop unrecycled trash off for $2 per bag at the center there, and in Owen County, that service is provided for $1 a bag. They have considered raising the price to $2, but Monster Trash Service just down the road from the center charges only $1.

Brown County’s recycling center does not accept trash, but two private companies have trucks stationed in Nashville where residents can pay $2 per bag to drop it off.

Owen County’s Robert E. Clark Recycling Center on Ind. 46 on the west edge of Spencer is at a crossroads. Interim director John Reeves, an environmentalist with the Owen County Health Department, recently outlined the center’s financial troubles for the county commissioners. He cited figures showing that from Jan. 2 through Feb. 11, the center’s income from trash and recyclables totaled $7,043. But with $11,962 in expenses, the loss was nearly $5,000.

Some, including commissioner Tony Voelker, are suggesting it’s time to close the recycling center or turn it over to a private operator to protect the county from the money drain.

Reeves said it’s a situation where no one wants to see a shutdown, but the alternative - losing money - can’t continue. “The county simply cannot afford to subsidize the service,” he said, citing trash disposal costs that have increased 82 percent since 2009.

Reeves lives in a remote rural area, and the trash hauler he contracted with to haul his away, for $50 a month, canceled his service when the price of diesel fuel skyrocketed and it no longer was cost efficient to drive to his house. So he started taking his trash to the recycling center and paying $1 per bag, costing him $4 a month. He drops off recyclables for free. “I’m saving a lot of money,” he said, suggesting others could do so as well while also supporting the center.

“I don’t know what will happen. We are taking it a week and a month at a time,” Reeves said. “Nobody wants to close the recycling center, but it doesn’t look like there is anything we can do to keep it open. But we keep trying.”


Information from: The Herald Times, https://www.heraldtimesonline.com

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