At the end of this month, the Johnson County Recycling District will close all of its drop-off spots for the time being as a result of China’s ban on certain recyclables.
Johnson County Recycling District executive director Jessie Biggerman says the county’s drop-off bins are unmanned, which leads to more contamination. She says China will no longer accept more than 0.5 percent contamination, so any recycling that isn't as pure isn't as valuable any more.
Biggerman says it would cost the district two to three times more to haul recycling at just a portion of its locations.
“In order to have this not happen again, we had to shut down and look at this from the beginning,” she says.
Indiana Recycling Coalition executive director Allyson Mitchell says as contracts with haulers come due, we’ll likely see other recycling districts in the state scale back.
“Price increases may make it ineffective for them to deliver all of the same services and/or to accept all the same materials that they have been in the past,” she says.
Other cities and towns in Indiana are feeling the effects of the China recycling changes. Recycling rates are expected to increase for Terre Haute, Indianapolis, and Brownstown. Greene County will no longer accept glass and Monroe County can no longer accept plastic bags.
The Johnson County Recycling District hopes to have some kind of drop-off recycling available in a few months, but there could be changes — including fewer drop-off sites, accepting fewer types of recyclables, manning sites for quality, and perhaps reverting back to dual-stream recycling.
Biggerman says some residents in the southern half of the county don’t have other ways to recycle.
Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.