The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

March 14, 2013

A Very Busy Place

Recycling center proves popular

VEEDERSBURG, Ind. — In an inconspicuous unheated building, just south of the intersection of Interstate 74 and U.S. Route 41 near Veedersburg, a skid steer buzzes back and forth, while workers compact cardboard boxes, bale paper and sift through empty plastic containers.

It’s an ordinary Monday morning at the Fountain County recycling center, where recyclables from households throughout the county are collected and shipped out to be reprocessed.

“A lot of people don’t think this is a busy place, but we’re like bees going back and forth with our trucks,” said Paul Goins, director of the Fountain County Solid Waste Management District.

Goins was hired to manage the recycling program last May, and he’s a man on a mission. Fountain County has run the recycling program since 1992 and time has taken its toll on many of the green recycling trailers that are strategically placed across the county. Some of them are literally falling apart due to rust and every day wear and tear. But maintenance of the trailers as well as updating and reorganizing the center have been Goins’ top priorities since he started the job.

“I would like to see this place really grow,” he said. “I’d like to put docks in, but that costs a lot of money. And I’d like to see more trailers. A lot of them are run down right now, but we’re working on that.”

Three new trailers were purchased recently, and more could be on their way.

“(The trailers) have been neglected,” said Larry Askren, president of the Fountain County Waste Management District Board, which oversees the recycling program. “We’d like to purchase more every year, as long as we don’t have to get indebted to do it.”

The trailers, located in Covington behind the IGA and the city building, in Attica near the ice house, and Newtown, Hillsboro, Kingman and Wallace, are hauled to the recycling center and emptied several times a week. In addition, a number of businesses have receptacles for cardboard.

At the center, all recyclables are hand sorted by six employees before they are baled or crushed. Goins then sells the materials on the open market through a broker.

“If the price is not where I think it should be, I might wait a week and see what it does,” Goins said. “I want to get the most for the company.”

Last year, the center handled 753 tons of recyclables and received $68,000 from the materials sold. Cardboard and office paper make up about 80 percent of the recyclables and also are the biggest moneymakers. The total budget for the recycling program was $240,000 last year.

“The materials that we sell fund 30-40 percent of the program. We’ve accumulated some money over the years, so this is not a burden on the taxpayers,” said Brad Crain, a member of the solid waste management board. “We encourage recycling because it helps keep trash out of the landfill and it helps us generate money. It seems like more and more people come on board each year.”

Even if recycling is on the upswing, some challenges remain for the program. Every day, the workers have to sift through large amounts of waste that doesn’t belong at the recycling center: Styrofoam, coffee grounds, artificial Christmas trees, cat litter, bags of trash, dirty diapers and more. In the most egregious cases, they’ve even found dead animals in the trailers.

Last year 83 tons of waste — about 10 percent of the total — was non-recyclable.

“A lot of people don’t understand how it works; there needs to be more education,” Goins said. “But I’ll be honest with you — a lot of it is laziness, too.”

To step up the educational efforts, Goins welcomes tours of the recycling center. He also would like to get out to the schools to talk about recycling.

“If you can get the kids to start doing it, then their parents will do it,” he said.

For more information about the Fountain County recycling program, call the recycling center at (765) 294-2260.

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