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'Feet On The Street' Program Aims To Keep Trash Out Of St. Joseph County Recycling

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If you live in St. Joseph County and see a group of people going through your recycling bin, don’t panic – they’re part of a new program meant to keep trash out of recycling.

Recycling Works, a sister company of local sanitation provider Borden Waste-Away, received a $50,000 grant from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to reduce contamination in recycling. 

 

Six inspectors started work this week, checking bins for common non-recyclable materials, like plastic bags or clothing. 

 

“A lot of people have wishful thinking in, ‘I hope this piece of clothing is reused, therefore, I’m going to throw it in the bin,” Logan Miller, sustainability coordinator for the Waste-Away Group, said. “It comes to our facility, and we’re pulling it off and putting it in the trash, then we’re having a second truck haul it to the landfill. So, it’s actually the complete opposite of that wishful thinking.”

 

Miller said the program’s goal is to not only correct poor recycling behavior, but to improve the county’s overall recycling operation.

 

“We have about 45 people, full-time staff, that are pulling these items off the conveyors,” he said. “If we can reduce that amount of waste, it just makes the overall process more efficient.

 

Bins with trash in them will receive an “Oops” tag, which lists the incorrect items in the bin on one side and a diagram of recyclable materials on the other.

 

Miller said if your bin gets tagged, your recycling will still get picked up – it’s just a reminder to stick to things like cardboard, cans and plastic bottles in the future.

 

“We’re not rejecting service, I think that’s people’s primary concern. We’ve also had very angry people who demand us to leave,” Miller said. “But, in general, in the short one week that we’ve done this, we’ve got a lot of feedback [that] people are excited about the project.”

 

Miller said inspectors will revisit routes periodically to see if they distribute fewer tags on later visits. 

 

Contact Gemma atgdicarlo@wvpe.orgor follow her on Twitter at@gemma_dicarlo.

 

If you appreciate this kind of journalism on your local NPR station, please support it by donating here. 

Gemma DiCarlo comes to Indiana by way of Athens, Georgia. She graduated from the University of Georgia in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and certificates in New Media and Sustainability. She has radio experience from her time as associate producer of Athens News Matters, the flagship public affairs program at WUGA-FM.
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