Treasure from trash is no new concept but East Central Indiana has found real gold — job creation. Recycling (and upcycling) is the business model for a slew of companies that collect, process and sell for reuse everything from paper to glass, plastic to rubber, and metal to cooking oil.
In Blackford County, for example, three of the top five private employers are recycling businesses. A prospect that sees Blackford already hosts such businesses feels comfortable that the region understands what it does and what it needs, said Colton Bickel, executive director of Blackford County Economic Development.
“It is a thriving industry and we only expect that to continue,” he said. “Our emphasis on recycling, renewables and sustainability gives us a leg up.”
The earth appreciates it and so does the workforce. A 2013 study by Ball State University for the Indiana Recycling Coalition found recycling creates 10 times more jobs than sending waste to the landfill.
New Indy Containerboard, Hartford City
Seven days a week, at least 20 tractor trailers filled with old corrugated containers pull up to the New Indy Containerboard’s facility in Hartford City. The plant recycles an average of 425 tons of cardboard boxes each day.
The location employs about 116 people, more than 80 percent of whom work in the plant. The remainder are in the logistics group, sourcing and delivering the old containers. Nearly all of the material is sourced from Walmart and Dollar General stores in an area roughly bounded by Indianapolis; Dayton, Ohio; Kalamazoo, Michigan; and South Bend. Some comes from the automotive industry.
New Indy produces huge rolls of recycled paper ranging from 30 inches wide and 50 inches in diameter to 132 inches wide and 60 inches in diameter. Though the company competes with other recyclers for raw fiber, including companies in China and Brazil, business is more than steady. In 2015 the plant processed 325 tons daily. By the end of 2019, daily production is expected to hit 450 tons, Freel said.
Perpetual Recycling Solutions, Richmond
Tempted to toss that plastic soda bottle in the trash? Perpetual Recycling Solutions has better ideas. The company recycles polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, into clean PET flakes used in an array of consumer and commercial products.
Consider the range of second acts — new bottles, deli containers and trays; fiber for business suits, sportswear, carpeting and luggage; or material used in making paint buckets, shingles, doormats, car parts and chairs.
Perpetual produces three grades of recycled PET flake, clear food grade, non-food grade and industrial grade. Its 100,000-square-foot facility uses an energy-efficient 20-step process to sort, decontaminate and purify flakes for reuse.
The company, which is in the process of being acquired by DAK Americas LLC, of Charlotte, North Carolina, produces about 100 million pounds, or 45,000 tons, of high-quality rPET flake annually. The “r” stands for recycling.
Petoskey Plastics, Hartford City
It may not sound glamorous, but Hartford City is home to Plastics News Plastics Processor of the Year for 2017.
Since 2010, Petoskey Plastics has recycled more than 288 million pounds of plastic bags and film into products for the auto, construction, retail and medical industries, among others.
Its plant in Hartford City employs 144 people and is adding $8 million in new equipment. The operation has expanded multiple times as the company adds new capacity, technology and product lines.
Petoskey recycles plastic film and linear low-density and low-density polyethylene bags and packaging. It pioneered a closed-loop system in which stretch, pallet and shrink wrap collected from big-box customers is recycled into new products.
The company is working with Michigan Technological University to improve the quality of the recycled plastic pellet so more can be reused. Customers also receive a “Sustainability Scorecard” that shows how the savings — environmental and financial — add up.
In one 2016 example, for instance, a major retail chain saved close to 6 million pounds of CO2 entering the atmosphere. That meant over 91,000 gallons of water not used and 36.6 million miles not driven by vehicles with internal combustion engines.
Translation: 195,000 gallons of gas not consumed. For one customer in one year. Plastic bags and wrapping can indeed pile up ... fast.
Recycling Resources for Residents
County Container Collection Site
blackfordcounty.com/ blackford-container- collector
Delaware County/ Muncie
Muncie Sanitary District Residential Recycling
munciesanitary.org/ departments/recycling/ curbside-recycling
Connersville Transfer Station & Recycling Center
Grant County Recycling Center
Henry County Solid Waste Management District
Madison County Recycling Center
Randolph County Solid Waste Management
randolphcounty.us/ services/what-recycle- and-where
Rush County Solid Waste District
Wayne & Union Solid Waste Management District