Rumpke unveils expanded Medora Recycling Center


A Cincinnati, Ohio-based company showcased its newest effort to increase residential and business recycling in southern Indiana on Friday morning.

The centerpiece of that effort is a newly completed $350,000 expansion of the Medora Recycling Center at 546 S. County Road 870W, Medora.

Officials with Rumpke Waste and Recycling along with state and local officials gathered at the site at Rumpke’s Medora Landfill for a ribbon cutting ceremony on a bright and sunny morning.

The recycling center opened in the summer of 2017 with three employees and a simple goal: Increasing recycling opportunities for the residents and businesses of Jackson County and surrounding communities.

“That goal has been realized and we’re moving forward,” Eric Curtis said.

Curtis, who is Rumpke’s region vice president, said with the expansion, the center now has a larger tipping floor, push walls and an overhead enclosure.

The expansion was funded by a $175,000 grant from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s Recycling Market Development Program and a $175,000 match from Rumpke.

A $87,425 grant from IDEM also helped finance construction of the original center in 2017. The center, which cost $652,425 to build, led to the expansion of curbside recycling throughout Jackson County. At that time, Rumpke had been offering curbside recycling in Brownstown and Crothersville. Seymour has its own curbside recycling program.

The Medora center’s new push walls and overhead enclosure are designed to help to combat the weather and better contain materials. In the past, recycling items could get blown away by wind or wet from rain. The larger tipping floor expands the amount of space to organize materials and accept recyclables.

“Before the push walls everything wanted to go to the fences,” landfill Manager Brad Marlow said.

He said in the previous two days before the ceremony there had been heavy rains that would’ve left all of the cardboard wet without the expanded infrastructure.

Steve Sargent, director of Recycling for Rumpke, discussed a 2013 study from the Indiana Recycling Coalition that emphasized the number of jobs created through recycling efforts.

According to the study, by recycling 25% of what Hoosiers dispose of at that time would have resulted in the creation of 10,000 jobs statewide, he said.

“You know what, that’s seven years ago,” Sargent said. “That’s happened.”

Sargent said recycling efforts within the state are accomplished through cooperation with multiple recycling plants, like those in Valparaiso, Ashley and Richmond.

“We’ve developed long-term marketing contracts with end users in the Midwest — many of which are right here in Indiana — who accept recyclable material to create new products,” said Sargent. “The effects of a circular economy are on full display in Indiana and we’re proud to play a role in helping fuel that process through the Medora Recycling Center.”

The loose cardboard collected from area schools, businesses and institutions is baled at the Medora center and shipped to Pratt Industries in Valparaiso.

Sargent also talked about the efforts Rumpke puts into recycling glass. He said Rumpke processes 6,000 tons a month of recycled glass from the Midwest, and this past July, the company shipped 70% of recycled glass products that came back to the state of Indiana in the form of new products such as fiberglass and bottles. He said the two things that are key to a successful recycling program are access and education.

“Having a recycling program in a rural area as opposed to a metropolitan area, he said is important.

“What this plant does is provide access to residential recycling in this portion of the state,” Sargent said. “Regarding education, he said it’s important for people to understand how recycling works and what’s recyclable so that there is less contamination in recycling plants.

“You can provide access to folks who recycle and if you don’t educate them on what we put into the program, we have the problem that we have today, and (it’s happening) across the country, contamination rates skyrocketed in some of these programs,” Sargent said.

Plastics is one important area where education is needed

An important rule Marlow said about recycling plastics is that they need to be in bottle and jar shape and if the mouth is smaller than the base, those kinds of plastics should be thrown away because they can’t be sorted correctly with the facility’s process.

Once the contaminants are picked out, the recyclables are then turned into 1,400 pound bales that are shipped off to Cincinnati where the material is sorted.

Workers at the Medora center also try to remove as much cardboard from the single stream recyclables as they can since it’s easier to organize and compacted by itself.

Workers at the Medora center try to ship out around 30 bales to fill a semitrailer, and that typically works out to 16 or 17 tons, Marlow says.

Since opening in 2017, the center has processed nearly 22,000 tons of cardboard and residential recyclables.

Debbie Hackman, executive director of Jackson County Recycling District, also spoke during the ceremony to thank everyone at Rumpke who work to promote recycling in the county.

Julia Wickard, assistant commissioner for IDEM, said the state’s 2019 recycling rate was 19%, a percentage below 2018’s rate of 20%.

The recycling goal for the state is 50%, stemming from House Bill (HB) 1183, enacted in 2014.

”Since 2008, the Recycling Market Development Board (of IDEM) has awarded funding for 108 projects across the state of Indiana, totaling over $8.5 million and created an estimated 850 jobs, diverting over 1 million tons annually including construction and debris, e-waste, plastics, heat waste, paper and glass,” Wickard said.

Rumpke was one of 12 organizations the Indiana Department of Environmental Management awarded a grant in December 2019. IDEM gave over $1.4 million in grants at that time to expand recycling efforts.

Rumpke owns and operates 11 recycling facilities, including the Medora Recycling Center, and processes one billion pounds of recyclables each year. In the past 10 years, Rumpke the company has invested more than $60 million in recycling infrastructure throughout the Midwest.

The following household items are accepted in Rumpke’s residential recycling program:

  • Plastic bottles and jugs with the mouth of the container being smaller than the base. Other non-bottle-or-jug plastics are not accepted.
  • Glass bottles and jars
  • Cartons (milk, juice broth)
  • Metal cans (aluminum and steel)
  • Mixed paper products (junk mail, magazines, phone books, newspapers, cardboard, clean pizza boxes and paperboard)

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