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.
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.
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