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Recycling contamination threatens county’s waste management systems

The Hamilton County Household Hazardous Waste Center’s annual costs have increased from $40,000 to more than $100,000 annually because of tighter recycling restrictions and the public not being fully aware of the restrictions.

The Hamilton County Waste Hazardous Waste Center is the largest such facility in Indiana. Leslie Taljaard, director of the Household Hazardous Waste Center for Hamilton County, emphasized the importance for residents to understand what can and cannot be recycled.

“Since 2017, if a resident puts the wrong material in our bins, we get contamination fees,” Taljaard said. “It’s possible that whole 5-ton bin is going straight to the landfill. We then get hit with a landfill fee and nothing in there is getting recycled.”

For example, not all plastics are recyclable.

In 2020, the center received 1.65 million pounds of hazardous materials and electronics, which were properly disposed of or recycled.  These materials are the primary focus of the HHW Center whereas the General Recycling Area is not as closely monitored, and the public should follow the signs on the machines for proper guidance.

“If we don’t get these types of issues under control, people aren’t following the rules, there are other (recycling) programs that have closed down around the state because they can’t get the contamination under control,” Taljaard said.

When recycling, Taljaard said it is important to pay attention to the signs and information provided on materials, such as plastic bottles, to ensure the items are recyclable.

The center is funded by property taxes, so the extra costs and fees associated with contaminated items come out of taxpayer’s pockets.

For more on Hamilton County’s Household Hazardous Waste Center, visit hamiltoncounty.in.gov/262/Household-Hazardous-Waste.

A list of recyclable and non-recyclable materials:

All recyclables should be clean, empty and dry.

RECYLCABLE:

  • Rigid plastic containers, such as bottles and jugs
  • Paper, newspaper, paper bags, magazines, envelopes, flyers
  • Glass jars and bottles
  • Milk, juice, dairy-free milk and broth cartons
  • Cardboard, paperboard and tubes
  • Metal cans and tins

NONRECYCLABLE:

  • Plastic bags, bubble wrap or plastic wrap
  • Light bulbs, batteries or electronics
  • Food and yard waste or demolition debris
  • To-go lids, styrofoam, straws and napkins
  • Hoses, ropes and textiles
  • Diapers or pet waste
  • Sharps, knives or propane tanks
  • Pots and pans