EDITOR'S NOTE: All of Ask Renee's columns are moving to NUVO! Here's one from October of 2015.
Find more Ask Renee columns here: nuvo.net/askrenee
I’ve seen stories that show poor people in third-world countries sorting through recycled materials that have been shipped from the U.S. Can you do an article about the amount of recycled material that actually is recycled and used in the U.S.?
This is a pretty deep topic that could easily be a Masters thesis. It’s more research and fact-finding than I could possibly do in one piece, but I do have some numbers that might satisfy your interest.
I asked Republic for stats on where their recyclables are going. In Indianapolis, 50 percent stays in Indiana, 38 percent stays in the Midwest, five percent goes elsewhere in the U.S. and seven percent is exported. In Bloomington, 25 percent stays in Indiana, 65 percent stays in the Midwest and 10 percent is exported. Fort Wayne: 60 percent Indiana; 3.75 percent Midwest; two percent U.S.; 2.25 percent export. South Bend: 25 percent Indiana; 60 percent Midwest; 15 percent export.
They believe that once Pratt Industries begins processing in their new Valparaiso facility, up to 80 percent of their fiber will stay in state.
In conversation during a tour of the Ray’s Trash Service single-stream facility on the Southwest side of Indy, I was told that about 99 percent of their materials stay right here in the Midwest.
Indiana Recycling Coalition’s 2013 job study reported that there are 77 Indiana manufacturers that use recycled feedstock creating more than 30,000 jobs for Hoosiers.
In recent years, China has raised their standards on the type of recyclable materials that they will accept. Operation Green Fence was implemented in 2013 and resulted in hundreds of thousands of tons of recyclables being rejected because they were poorly sorted or dirty.
Often what you see being exported to other countries is e-waste. If you want to ensure that your e-waste is being handled responsibly in Indiana, seek a recycler who demanufactures electronics right here in our state rather than loading materials up on a truck to be sent elsewhere. Also seek recyclers with certifications such as R2 and ISO to ensure that materials are being handled responsibly.
(NOTE: This Ask Renee Q&A was featured in NUVO on Oct. 21, 2015.)