Have you ever wondered what happens to the stuff you put in your recycling bin? And, who are the people that make their living converting your recycling into something of value?

There are multiple recycling outlets within Hendricks County. The biggest players are WM (formerly Ray’s Recycling) and Republic Services. Both entities offer subscription curbside recycling service. The District offers three Recycling Drop-off Centers in North Salem, Lizton, and Coatesville. WM currently has the contract to service those centers. Items accepted in all the programs we just mentioned include:

  • Glass food and beverage containers
  • Plastic food and beverage containers (bottles, jugs, tubs, etc.); no bags, no Styrofoam
  • Steel and aluminum cans
  • Paper and flattened cardboard
  • Cartons that held liquids (juice boxes, milk cartons, wine boxes, etc.)

What happens to these recyclables? Once items leave the bin, they are delivered to a local MRF (Materials Recovery Facility) where they are sorted by machines and people (jobs). Once the contamination is removed (contamination is anything put in the bin that’s not on the list above) the materials are sorted and grouped by type (#1 plastics together, #2 plastics together, aluminum cans together, etc.). They are then made into bales and sold to buyers within the US. Those buyers are most often located in states like Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee, Iowa, Wisconsin, South Carolina, and Georgia. Some recyclables stay even closer to home. Pratt Industries operates a very large box-to-box manufacturing plant in Valparaiso that relies on a steady stream of recycled cardboard to feed its manufacturing line. Steel cans often don’t even leave this area as they’re sold to Steel Dynamics in Pittsboro!

The vast majority of the stuff recycled locally doesn’t end up in Asia; it gets put back into the process near here. Recycling where we live supports companies in and around Hendricks County. When deciding what items will be accepted in a program, recyclers have to factor into account the fluctuating values of the materials collected, as well as costs related to collecting, sorting, and shipping everything they collect. (We covered the economics of recycling in a recent article “Why Does it Cost Money to Recycle?”)

What do your recyclables become? Steel cans find new life as tools, cars, and buildings. Aluminum cans mostly become aluminum cans again, but can also become airplane parts or even fancy bicycles. Water bottles/pop bottles (#1 plastic) can become clothing, carpeting, hats, and more bottles. Milk jugs and laundry detergent bottles (#2 plastic) can become plastic lumber and new bottles and jugs. Paper is recycled to make paperboard, cardboard, and paper towels. Glass can be recycled forever and usually becomes new bottles and jars.

While local curbside and drop-off recycling capture most recyclables in Hendricks County, there are nearby outlets for other items not accepted in the programs discussed above:

  • Kohl’s, Kroger, Lowe’s, Meijer, Target, and Walmart all accept plastic bags and film for recycling
  • Electronic Recyclers International (ERI) accepts electronics
  • Best One of Indy, Big O Tires, Brownsburg Muffler and Service Center, Discount Tire Company, and Myer’s Garage, Inc. accept tires for recycling
  • Batteries Plus Bulbs will accept batteries and compact fluorescent lightbulbs for recycling
  • GreenCycle accepts yard waste for composting

Don’t forget, recycling is not the only (nor the best!) option for managing waste. Reuse is always better than recycling and there are, in fact, reuse options right here within Hendricks County which also support our local economy. Before you recycle or purchase something new, try:

  • Goodwill Industries
  • Habitat for Humanity ReStore
  • Half Price Books
  • Local consignment shops
  • Antique Dealers
  • Garage/Yard sales

Our Online Recycling Directory has information from more than 100 local organizations that provide recycling and/or reuse options for residents. Thanks to people just like you that want to do the right thing, recycling is alive and well in Hendricks County!

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