Thursday is a pretty special day for the Shelby County Recycling District.
In addition to being Earth Day, it’s also the 30th anniversary of the district’s founding.
The district was founded as the Shelby County Solid Waste Management District in 1991, following a state mandate that all counties establish a solid waste management district.
“There was concern that Indiana may run out of landfill space, so the districts were mandated to be able to educate our residents about the importance of the three R’s,” Executive Director Lisa Carpenter explained.
Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.
Carpenter had to pull out a very thick binder containing the resolution establishing the district and the first meeting minutes to find more info about its establishment.
“Fortunately, I wasn’t around in 1991,” she said, flipping through the pages.
She pulled out Ordinance 1991-3, of which former commissioners Maurice Leap, David Mohr, and Kenneth Nigh signed the district into existence.
“I think it’s neat just to see this,” Carpenter said. “I mean, these are originals – [it’s neat to see] how old they are, and what great shape they’re in.”
The first meeting of the Recycling District (whose name was changed in 2015) occurred June 4, 1991. It was an organizational meeting that took place in Courthouse Room 107. There, it appointed Attorney Jerry Lux as the temporary chair, Maurice Leap as the vice chair, and Janet Miller as the secretary.
“I’m sure some people will remember this just fine, not me,” Carpenter said.
At that time, the first Recycling District board met on the first Tuesday of the month at 8 p.m. at the courthouse.
Since then, the district has grown quite a bit. It now has an office at the Professional Building, 1600 E. SR-44, and offers its services at the transfer station, 1304 N. Michigan Road.
“The transfer station is somewhat confusing,” Carpenter said. “That property is owned by Shelby County. The county commissioners and county council have been so gracious as to let us use that property for our recycle site and our pollution prevention center.”
The pollution prevention center was opened in 2003. It’s there that the district provides a location for county residents to dispose of household hazardous waste.
In 2005, it started grinding yard waste into mulch for residents. In 2006, it started its Clean Up and Shred Days (the next one is May 8 at the fairgrounds).
In 2016, it opened a permanent site for disposal of unused medicines. In 2019, Carpenter started as the first full-time director, but she’d already been serving part time for nine years prior to that.
In 2020, despite COVID-19, the district accomplished several things: it amended the solid waste ordinance to include overgrown grass and weeds, as well as requiring vehicles be registered operable; it created flag retirement boxes; it eliminated recycle containers outside the fence at the transfer station; and it received an Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) grant, which it used to publish recycling guides.
For 2021, Carpenter said the district is working on “a really great” project.
“We were fortunate to be awarded a grant from IDEM to purchase our own recycle roll off containers,” she said. “Most residents are aware we have containers throughout the community where they can drop off their recycling 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We use a vendor for those, but we’re actually going to be able to purchase our own and we’re going to put messages on those.”
Each container’s message will contain information on how to properly dispose of different items. So for example, one may be placed in Waldron that explains how to dispose of household hazardous waste, and another one may be placed in Fairland that explains how to dispose of electronics.
The containers will be switched around, so different messages will get to different towns over time.
“The public will see these in place sometime this year,” she said.
And in the near future, the district hopes to build its own Recycling Building at the transfer station. It’s planned to be 9,600 square feet and designed in a way that would allow the building to expand in the future.
“That would be our home, instead of here at the Professional Building,” Carpenter said. “There was discussion about that before I came back to this role, but really a lot of our services happen out there, so we’re not on site. It would be an additional service to the residents of Shelby County. We would be able to have all of our services during regular business hours.”
“Currently, the pollution prevention center is open Saturdays from 7:30 a.m. to noon, so our goal would be that that service can be provided, if we have a building out there and we have staff on site, that service could be provided during regular business hours,” she added.
Carpenter said the district is planning to apply for grants to help pay for this. The district receives most of its money in the form of tipping fees from the county landfill – they get $2 for every ton of trash the landfill receives.
It also receives an itty bitty amount from property taxes – $.0039 per $100.00 of assessed value.
To celebrate the anniversary and Earth Day, the district will be doing two things: first, its board will head to Knauf Insulation to kick off the business’ employee program for food and beverage glass recycling; and second, it’s planning an event at the end of June.
“On June 30, we are going to do environmental tours for anyone that’s interested,” Carpenter said. “The gentleman that has the new bus here in town” – Bill Pike with Shelbyville Transportation Ministries – “My plan is to have him come probably at 10 in the morning and have interested individuals who have already signed up for the tour get on the bus and then we’ll talk to them as we’re going out to the transfer station and provide them information about our services, and how to recycle right, and what you can do in your home to eliminate so much trash.”
“We’ll give them a tour of the transfer station, then we’ll take them to Pettit’s Recycling and show them what happens to their scrap metal,” she added. “You know, if you collect cans at home, this is what happens at Pettit’s with those items.”
There will be one tour at 10 a.m. and one at 2 p.m. You can sign up by calling the Recycling District office at 317-392-8904 or emailing Carpenter at firstname.lastname@example.org.