Without universal curbside recycling, residents in Indianapolis have to either go somewhere to drop off their recycling, or pay an $8-a-month subscription fee to have someone come and pick it up off their curb — a system that has frustrated residents, according to Allyson Mitchell, executive director of the Indiana Recycling Coalition.
“We take phone calls, and we get confusion, perplexion, and we do hear some anger from people,” Mitchell says. “Especially when they move from other parts of the country and they come to Indianapolis, they expect to see the same level of services that they had in other cities of our size, and when they come here and realize that they have to pay extra and take an extra effort to recycle, they’re frustrated.”
Of Marion County’s approximately 267,000 households, only 10% are enrolled in the subscription program, making up about 26,000 households, according to Katie Robinson, director of the city’s office of sustainability.
She doesn’t necessarily look at the city’s low recycling rate as a black eye, but rather as an opportunity for Indianapolis to grow a program that fits its needs. Robinson says Indianapolis hopes to implement a citywide curbside recycling program by 2025 — and she sees an urgent need to do so. “We actually just completed the city’s greenhouse gas inventory and our emissions from waste is continuing to grow rather rapidly,” she says. “It was kind of striking to see that increase, and so, we are very concerned. We need to get some of that waste processed accordingly.”
Robinson says Indianapolis hopes to tackle its food waste problem as well, by eventually offering a subscription-based composting service to residents. For both programs, though, the city needs to move strategically, she says. “We could flip a switch tomorrow and have a recycling program. We may fail at it,” Robinson says. “We are trying to look at the full, holistic implementation of such a program.”