Indianapolis among America’s worst big cities when it comes to recycling

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- Indianapolis is at risk of becoming the most wasteful big city in America, according to our news gathering partners at the IndyStar. They found only 7 percent of waste is recycled in the city.

That is in comparison to 80 percent in San Francisco, the top recycling city. The IndyStar said the national average is 35 percent.

IndyStar gathered and analyzed recycling rates — the percentage of waste that is kept from the landfill or incinerator — for the 50 most populous cities in the country. According to the IndyStar, urban areas from New York City to Houston, Portland to Milwaukee and Phoenix to Columbus typically recycle as much as 20 or 30 percent of their waste, and some much more.

"I have always felt uncomfortable with waste," said Julia Spangler, Sustainable Events Consultant.

Spangler is so passionate about reducing waste that she found a career out of it by helping organizations plan sustainable events.

"All of the things we are throwing away have value," she said.

Allyson Mitchell, the executive director of Indiana Recycling Coalition, was not surprised by the numbers in IndyStar's article. She believed the lack of a universal curbside pickup in the city is one reason the city is behind.

"We don’t have the structure to support good rates for recycling," Mitchell said.

Because of that, she believes it is driving away jobs and money.

"That incentives organizations to locate their manufacturing here," she said.

The Office of Sustainability admits the numbers are lower than they would like but it's director, Katie Robinson, said Mayor Joe Hogsett wants to bring a curbside program for every household by 2025. It's part of Thrive Indianapolis, the first sustainability action plain in the city's history.

"There is tremendous opportunity in the city of Indianapolis," she said. "This is not an easy process. We know from best practices that we need to have two years on the front end of solid education."

Robinson said they are seeing what other cities have accomplished to build out a plan. Her office and Mayor Hogsett plan to bring forward Thrive Indianapolis to the Metropolitan Development Commission on Feb. 20.

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