February 10, 2016

Indianapolis Suspends Deal With Covanta For Single-Stream Waste Center

Chris Bentley/via Flickr

Chris Bentley/via Flickr

INDIANAPOLIS -- Mayor Joe Hogsett is putting the brakes on a deal with waste management company Covanta for a new single-stream trash facility that his predecessor penned.

The Hogsett administration announced Wednesday morning it will pause the deal for 90 days to reassess the benefits of a new Advanced Recycling Center. The decision comes amid a legal challenge over the project.

“I appreciate Covanta’s willingness to agree to this effort as we work toward a long-term solution that best serves our neighborhoods and our environment," Mayor Hogsett, a Democrat, said in a written statement.

Former Republican Mayor Greg Ballard announced in June 2014 that Covanta will construct a $45 million facility in Indianapolis that will pluck recyclable materials from residents' curbside trash and send the rest to an incinerator to be burned for energy. It would save homeowners from having to sort their trash and reusable materials. Construction of the facility has not begun yet.

Covanta promised the deal would greatly increase Indy's recycling capacity -- few residents pay the monthly fee for curbside recycling pickup. But there were quickly concerns raised about the facility's efficiency and environmental benefits. A Covanta vice president defended the deal in an April 2015 Indy Star op-ed, saying an ARC facility is not dirty, it's just different.

Two paper companies are among the plaintiffs that filed a lawsuit a few months after the announcement over the bidding process for the deal, according to the Indy Star.

A Covanta spokesman said the company still has a "successful partnership" with the city.

"Covanta is committed to helping bring recycling to all in Indianapolis and will be ready to assist in any capacity deemed appropriate once the new administration’s due diligence is complete," spokesman James Regan said in a written statement to WFYI.

Covanta's current deal for trash handling requires the city to supply its incinerator with a certain amount of waste, a significant handicap for previous administrations to improve citywide recycling. The Covanta and Ballard agreement would send both reusables and garbage to Covanta.

But dual-stream, separate recycling and garbage management is the only way to reduce waste in Indianapolis, argues Carey Hamilton, executive director of the Indiana Recycling Coalition.

"The evidence is clear that dirty recycling that Covanta proposed doesn't work," she said.

The city will continue to defend its legal ability to negotiate with Covanta, the mayor's office said.

Contact Ryan: 317.489.4491 | rdelaney@wfyi.org | @rpatrickdelaney 

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