Broad Ripple Glass Recycling Program a Template for Success

by Thomas P. Healy

The Indiana Recycling Coalition (IRC) and its partner Strategic Materials have received a $22,585 grant from the State of Indiana to promote recycling in four Marion County business districts.

IRC was one of eight recyclers in the state to receive a grant from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s (IDEM) Recycling Market Development Program, which is devoted to expanding recycling in Indiana. Ryan Clem, IDEM’s external relations director, said, “The Indiana Recycling Coalition and Strategic Materials met the program objectives and priorities by demonstrating an understanding of the changing economy for recyclers to help meet Indiana’s 50 percent recycling goal.”

He said the proposal was awarded the grant because it strives to increase recyclable material collection, reduce solid waste shipped for disposal, and improve public partnerships and awareness of recycling opportunities in central Indiana.

IDEM staff administers the program by vetting applicants and forwarding completed applications to the independent Recycling Market Development Board. Board members are gubernatorial appointees and make the final decision.

The grant proposal was based on a successful recycling program launched in Broad Ripple several years ago, said Carey Hamilton, IRC executive director. “The IRC sponsored a tour of the Broad Ripple recycling program during its annual conference,” she said. When putting together the grant application the Village came to mind. “We thought, let’s use what happened successfully in Broad Ripple and replicate it in other places.”

IRC board member Morgan Bennett led the IRC tour in 2015. “I discussed how we started it and how successful it has been,” she said. Bennett remains engaged with the project through Green Broad Ripple, the nonprofit that helped establish the program in 2008. She said that according to Strategic Materials, “roughly 26 tons of glass was taken out of the waste stream in 2016.”

Given the popularity of draft beer, the amount of glass fluctuates a great deal but the program has done consistently well. Bennett said a conservative estimate would be that 234 tons of glass has been removed from the waste stream since the program’s inception.

Union Jack owner Jay Wetzel demonstrates how easy it is to recycle.

Jay Wetzel, co-owner of Union Jack Pub on Broad Ripple Avenue, said the logistics of handling recycling were already in place with he and his wife Chelsey bought the bar and restaurant a few years ago. Brenda Rising-Moore, the previous owner, “had obtained a number of blue recycling bins. We keep them in the server alley.”

But it must be tough for servers to separate glass when the family dining room is full and the bar is packed with raucous soccer fans. “Staff just sets them aside and when they have a moment they go through and put them in the bin,” he said. The only down side is people in a hurry don’t drop them gently so you might hear a big crash!”

Wetzel says staff have to empty the bins multiple times daily on a busy weekend, but that it’s just a routine operation. “We’ve got it set up that one of the servers’ closing duties is to take the recycling bin out and dump it and rinse it out and let it dry overnight.” Though the program is for bottles only, Wetzel and his staff collect cans for the Can Lady Project to recycle.

Wetzel expressed gratitude to his landlord, Marc Fortney, who gave permission for the large recycling skip to take up precious parking spaces behind the building. For his part, Fortney is glad to help. “Glass recycling has been part of what we’ve been doing since we came into town eight years ago,” Fortney said from his office in La Crosse, Wis. “It’s been a huge success.”

With redevelopment in Broad Ripple increasing, Fortney said he and his brother are taking a hard look at ways to improve parking availability for their tenants and customers. “We do not want the recycling container to go away,” he said, stressing that the current location is very convenient for his staff, who use it, as well as other users like the Village Vanguard, 317 Burger and None the Wiser.

He wondered aloud if any of the grant money could be used to decorate the container. “It’s not pretty,” he said. “It’d be nice to have some edgy graphic art painted on it to make it fit in better if we do decide to put in a brand new parking lot with better lighting.”

According to the grant award made Jan. 6, Fortney’s desire will remain unfulfilled. IRC will use the funds for equipment, management services, and outreach materials aimed toward initiating a proposed metro-area glass-recycling project to collect more high-quality, uncontaminated glass from bars and restaurants within four strategic and popular business districts in the region.