Curb Side Recycling in Indianapolis

Curbside Recycling Pilot in Keystone-Monon neighborhood (image credit: Curt Ailes)
Curbside Recycling Pilot in Keystone-Monon neighborhood (image credit: Curt Ailes)

A couple weeks ago I arrived home from work and discovered an unfamiliar scene as I drove down my street. There were yellow & blue bins in every property’s front yard, including my own. There was a packet of information included with the bin explaining that my neighborhood had been selected for a 3 month curbside recycling pilot program; which is being offered by Republic. At the end of the 3 month period, a one time charge of $48 for the next year will be billed if we choose to continue.

To be completely honest, I was excited to see the bin in my front yard. Republic will pick it up every other week on the same day as my garbage pick up. The bin is huge and my only worry is that we will fill it too fast. We already take a disproportionate amount of recycling (compared to garbage) to a neighborhood bin on a weekly basis. The good news is that we do not have to sort it and everything we currently recycle is directly compatible. After a couple cycles of using it, I have noted that our 96 gallon recycling bin is almost always full every other week, while our 30 gallon garbage container is less than halfway full every week.

The arrival of the bin really got me thinking about where the City of Indianapolis is with the rumored city-wide curbside recycling program. In 2009, an RFQ was issued by the city to area recycling vendors to gauge whether or not a “free” curbside service could be offered. According to the City website, there IS a curbside program currently in place where they issue a 96 gallon bin. This seems to be the same program that my neighborhood is a pilot participant in. I turned to Molly Deuberry at the DPW to see where the city’s prior RFQ efforts lead. According to her,

“The City is required by contract with our current solid waste haulers to first negotiate with them prior to soliciting outside bids related to curbside recycling.  Those are the negotiations that we have been having.  To date, we haven’t been able to reach an acceptable conclusion, but we haven’t given up yet.  And let me say, we haven’t had a lot of pressure or push for mandatory recycling.”


“When the Ballard Administration came to office in January 2008, there were roughly 8,000 households participating in curbside recycling.  Through outreach, increasing awareness, and partnerships, we have increased that number 2 ½ times to just over 21,000 households.  That means an increase from 3% of the population to 8% of the population.  The Mayor has been very clear that 8% is not enough—we need to keep looking for ways to increase curbside recycling.  Thus the idea of the recycling pilot was born.”

To me, that says that our politicians are trying, but only a small number of us our voicing our support of such a system. Even looking at other cities, recycling is seldom “free” and is included in waste fees. It would be a stretch to see a new wide spread and intensive program be put into service totally free. I think the bigger problem is again, convincing people that it is worth paying for the service. It is a quality of life issue that people must be willing to pay for. Personally, the pilot program put us over the hump. The trouble of taking pieces to area bins is worth paying $6 a month to have it picked up. However, I have to say that we never actually subscribed. The pilot program has helped us along with that.

Comments 17

  • Same for me, Curt. It was funny riding down our street coming home from work that day. I actually thought, “I had no idea this many people on our street recycled. This is awesome, and I feel like a jerk,” and then I realized what was likely going on.

    Our neighbors to the south of us have a recycling subscription already, and we’ve been going halves with them, but it always fills up towards the end and we have to garbage more than we want. I didn’t really read the literature they left along with the barrel, so I didn’t know it was only $48/year. That’s really fantastic, and we’ll definitely be signing up for our own as well. Last week, our recycling bin was almost full, and I didn’t even pull the garbage bin to the curb, because we only had 1 trash bag. It was kind of awesome.

    With the recycling bin, along with the compost bin I just built, I don’t think we’re going to have much trash at all anymore. Well-played, city of Indianapolis and Republic.

  • Hmm. I thought subscription recycling was already available all over town. I got tired of saving my recycling and hauling it somewhere, so I signed up after seeing a bin outside a house a couple of blocks away. I’m paying $6/month; it probably costs more to run the service in an area with very light participation.

  • Christopher,
    The information I received was that it cost $48 plus an additional $80-I will pull it out again tonight and review. I am still evaluating the $128 vs the community collection bin.

  • For those who work downtown, there is a place about a mile south of Lucas Oil Stadium off of West Street. Indianapolis Recycled Fiber is at 1775 S. West Street. For about a year or two, I took all my plastics to this location. The goal was to haul my own trash to a dump ($1 per bag, can use the large 55 gallon bags and still only pay $1+the cost of gas it takes to get you there) and use this free service to recycle all my plastics (from caps, milk jugs, shampoo bottles, etc.). Well, I wanted to get a truck to haul my trash in, but that never came about. So, I haven’t really went through and I’m paying Republic too much money every quarter, so I now toss everything into the trash. I figure the savings in gas that I now have once or twice a week helps offset new taxes, new fees, and higher prices elsewhere in my budget. If I do get a truck in the future, I might go back to recycling since it will help me limit the amount of bags I have to take to the dump.

  • crownhilldigger, I will have to go review my paperwork, but I dont ever recall an $80 charge… even if you look at the city website, its only $60 per year. Even at $48 a year, that is $4 a month.
    $4!!!! I dont see how that is expensive at all. T Lasko, you are an even bigger cheapskate than I am. I dont follow your logic. If you get a truck? What is it going to cost you to get a truck versus just paying Republic? It would take you many years of paying the republic pick-up fee before you EVER racked up enough in service charges to equal the price of a truck. Even if you were talking about a complete POS that you ONLY used to haul recyclables its still a tremendous waste.

  • Who designs the bins? Looks pretty ugly.

  • I wish I was in the test neighborhood, although I get a definite satisfaction from loading the recyclables in the station wagon for a monthly trip to the bins (conveniently located to both my office and my home).

    I think $48 a year is an awesome price for the service.

    Green or brown bins would have a better environmental aesthetic than the blue.

    • It’s easy to distinguish the blue-with-yellow-lid in predawn darkness that envelops Indy for almost half the year. Green or brown probably wouldn’t be enough different from gray.

  • We’ve had the option in the grove for three years it’s $50 a year and can I tell u I love it! They even come up to the house to get it. Sadly two other people on my block do it – I just hope the don’t discontinue our services.

  • We also have the $6/mo recycling. We tried to get in a year ago and called the city, and they said that while we could have it, nobody else in our neighborhood was doing it, and it was likely it wouldn’t get picked up. We revisited it again this year (especially after seeing a neighbor across the street had the blue recycling bin) and have had our bin for several months. The convenience is worth it to me, instead of having our recycling taking over our kitchen. & we’re recycling more than we used to be able to recycle at O’Malia’s.

  • Hey, has anyone who is doing recycling using or at least familiar with ? Thinking of sending the letters to Republic (the hauler) and the city. When I entered my zip code on Recycle Bank, they told me that my community is not currently part of the Recyclebank Home Recycling Rewards program. Just wondering if this is widespread in Indy at all or not.

  • I just called and got recycling set up for $6 a month billed quarterly in advance. I live in Holy Rosary Danish Church neighborhood between Fountain Square and Downtown. This is the most excitement I’ve had in a week.

  • Biggest complaint about my recycle bin is either a) it is too small or b) every two weeks isn’t often enough for pick up. We have 5 days till pick up and it is overflowing. Good problem to have, I suppose.

  • If recycling is truly important to the community at large, then it needs to be mandatory. It doesn’t need to be free, just like solid waste pickup isn’t, but yet it’s mandatory because the public benefit of organized, mandatory trash pickup is important enough not to trust people to dispose of their trash in a responsible way. Likewise, waiting for everyone to voluntarily agree to pay more money for something whose cumulative benefits to society might be great, but the individual benefits of which are miniscule, will result in a tiny percentage of the public participating.

  • Re: recycling: I have just moved from North Carolina to Indiapolis. In my former area we had a recycling center that accepted everything: glass, cans, newspapers, etc. We could either pay a yearly fee and get a sticker attached to the windshield which allowed us to come anytime within business hours in that year to dump our recyclables into individually marked bins. Or, we could pay for just a one-time trip. Is there anything like that in Indy?

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