indianapolis recycling zero waste

How do I recycle in Indianapolis?

How do I recycle in Indianapolis- - Green Indy Blog

How do I recycle in Indianapolis? (Alternatively titled, this should really not be such a pain in 2017.)

Growing up, I never questioned recycling. Everyone in my tiny rural Virginia town (truly, not the paragon of any sort of progressive movement) was issued a small plastic bin in which you could throw several types of plastic. Every trash day, they lined the streets with varying levels of fullness and care.

After that I went to college at a liberal arts school. Enough said.

But when I moved to Russia in 2010, there was no recycling to be had. By the time I left in 2015, some parks had trash/paper/plastic bins installed, but we assumed – with classic Russian cynicism – that they all went into the same landfill anyway. Recycling was essentially a western fever dream.

So when I returned to the States, I assumed I was moving back to what would be, in comparison, an idyllic eco-friendly paradise.


Indianapolis does not recycle like you’d expect a city to. As a renter, no apartment I’ve heard of offers a recycling program. I’ve never seen a recycling bin on the street; in fact, in a 2016 article, the Indy Star cited a statistic that said only 10% of Indy residents participate in city curbside pickup.

10 percent.

FYI: if you live in a single-residence abode in Indy and have garbage pickup, you can add on a recycling program super easily – and for $6.25 a month, max. Check out the info on getting signed up here.

To sum it up: WTF. What’s an eco-conscious gal to do? How do I recycle in Indianapolis?

Why, toss her trash in the car and set out to find a reasonably close recycling drop off.

Indianapolis Recycling Drop Off

My experience finding a recycling drop off

How hard could it be, right?


I thought I’d found a location which accepts many different kinds of plastics and aluminium just a five-minute drive from my apartment. Nope. The location (a really grungy supermarket) was no longer open and the recycling drop-off had been removed. The website I’d used to search for locations – suggested by both government and non-profits – hadn’t updated the information.

I visited another location. No dice. Another. Drop off gone.

Finally, I came across an actual site with an actual drop off still in operation! Woo-hoo! Unfortunately, it happened to be about half an hour across the city from me and I’d only happened upon it when I dropped my husband off at a friend’s.


When a recycling spot is so hard to find, you take a celebratory selfie when it finally happens.

As I took a couple shots of the absolutely overflowing bin (I only had about 3 soda cans and two milk jugs, so I could slot them into open spots easily enough), I saw four cars stop by with big loads of recycling. I was surprised by how busy it was. It’s obviously a much-used resource that was simply overflowing due to its clear scarcity.

In the end the location isn’t convenient, but it is an area we head to about once a week so this drop off point isn’t out of the realm of possibility. But it left me wondering: what about the many people who live in my area without easy access to a car? Are they expected to schlep a bus ride (or two) with a big bag of recycling alongside them? How is that fair?

Once again, my profound privilege rears its head and makes me wonder how we – as individual citizens – can make reducing waste a process that is simple, and not a hurdle to overcome. But that’s an adventure and a story for another day.

For now, I’m still consumed by the task of finding a recycling drop off in Indy that isn’t a major undertaking. Any advice? How do I recycle in Indianapolis without a major headache?

Resources for recycling in Indianapolis

Indiana Recycling Coalition, helpful stuff!

Earth 911, home of the un-updated recycling drop off locations

The Indiana Recycling Directory, less thorough, but seems more up-to-date

Sustain Indy, a government-led program

4 thoughts on “How do I recycle in Indianapolis?”

  1. In my parent’s suburban town we always had recycling. Then, one year, they were doing budget cuts so they got rid of the recycling program. Fortunately, they came to a compromise so now they pick up recycling every other week. Every home got new garbage bin size recycling bins. I think this is actually a good idea because they save gas and pollution only coming once every two weeks.

    1. That’s great! Once we’re in a residential unit, we’ll definitely be recycling but man, it’s tricky in apartments!

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