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Indiana's recycling industry: another man's treasure.



Recycling is the ultimate conservation measure. We're being told we are moving toward a paperless society, but the fact is, industry analysts anticipate that the U.S. demand for paper by the year 2040 will be 50 percent greater than it is today, says information released by the Indiana Recycling Coalition. Old newspapers alone account for about 8 percent of the waste total. Recycling just one ton of newsprint saves 17 Georgia white pine trees and between 70 and 100 gallons of gasoline.

And the statistics on trash are startling. According to figures provided by the IRC. U.S. households yearly generate more than 150 million tons of waste, or enough to fill a convoy of 10-ton garbage trucks 145,000 miles long.

Hoosiers are part of the problem, accounting for 4.2 percent of the national total. Indiana landfills, moreover, are disappearing. A study by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management shows the state had 150 disposal sites in operation in 1980 and nine years later, only 83. As many as 31 are expected to close by 1993, leaving as many as 54 of the state's counties without places to dump their refuse.

But, once again, the recycling ethic is coming across to the American people.

Consider the figures provided by Pittsburgh-headquartered Aluminum Co. of America: In 1989, 61 percent of the aluminum beverage cans manufactured that year were recycled. That translates to more than 49 billion cans, which earned in excess of $900 million for the estimated 4 million regular and part-time recyclers.

In Indiana, The ALCOA Warrick Operations in Newburgh is one of the world's largest recyclers of aluminum cans. The plant serves as a collection point for more than 7 billion cans, which are trucked in each year from recycling centers.

The Warrick County ALCOA installation, where more than 3,500 are employed, is a fully integrated aluminum smelting and fabricating facility. Nearly one-half of the aluminum that's fabricated at the plant comes from recycled material.

But the aluminum industry isn't the only one that can boast of a dramatic improvement in its recycling figures. According to the Steel Can Recycling Institute, which is also headquartered in Pittsburgh, the overall steel recycling rate was 66 percent in 1988, the highest rate for any material currently recycled in the United States.

The finished plate as it rolls out of the mill contains 30 percent recycled steel, says George Mandich, chairman of Stick With Steel, an all-volunteer advocacy consortium consisting of representatives from the United Steelworkers of America and a group of four steel companies with operations in northern Indiana that includes LTV Corp., USX Corp., Bethlehem Steel Corp. and Midwest Steel Division, National Steel Corp.

After the scrap is collected, it has to be cut, ground, shredded or baled, whichever is appropriate, by a processor such as K & F Industries, Inc., a 41-year-old firm in Indianapolis. According to Greg Kroot, company vice president and grandson of its founder, last year K & F returned as much as 100,000 tons of steel to the industrial stream, let alone aluminum, copper and glass.

"Scrap has to be free of hazardous materials when it comes to us," says Kroot, which rules out light fixtures, electric motors and compressors that might contain PCBs. And, although K & F will take underground storage tanks, vendors have to certify that they contain no contaminants. "All this is done to guard the environment," he says.

K & F obtains scrap in job lots from demolition contractors and from its industrial accounts such as Ford Motor Co., Chrysler Corp. and Detroit Diesel Allison Division of General Motors Corp. But not all of K & F's suppliers are large steel fabricators. "We also buy little loads from people with pick-ups who go up and down the alleys cleaning up," says Kroot. "That's another way we're helping with the environment."

The modus operandi of paper recyclers is much the same as it is for scrap-metal processors. Central States Fiber Corp., for example, which is a 35-year-old full-service concern that's headquartered in Shelbyville, picks up, sorts, grades and bales waste paper for shipping back to the mills. Its service area encompasses Indiana and the surrounding states, though, says partner Vince Worland, "We work all over."

So--it's pretty easy to establish a good case for recycling, but what are people doing about it? More, specifically, what are Hoosiers doing about it? The answer is: plenty.

Says JoAnne Joyce, state recycling coordinator and director of special projects for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, "As a (recycling) state, Indiana is in its infancy, but it is moving rapidly ahead. A statewide network is finally coming into place."

Hoosier businesses, from industry giants such as LTV and USX to recyclers in small-town Indiana, are chipping in to do their part.

There's a heightened awareness of the recycling effort at the state level as well, which shows up not only in the chambers of the Indiana General Assembly but in the halls of the Statehouse as well.

Gov. Evan Bayh, for example, has instituted a recycling program by installing recycling bins in the state office buildings.

The state also has a contract with Indianapolis Recycled Fiber to pick up the waste paper that's generated in the state office buildings. Furthermore, the state is "aggressively procuring paper with recycled content," Joyce says. Before contracting with a vendor, the state gets dual bids for the new and recycled product.

Bev-Pak, Inc., is an Indiana company that's put forth one of the more notable efforts at recycling. Bev-Pak, which is based in Monticello and employs between 250 and 300, makes steel beverage cans. It was organized more than two years ago, and the first can rolled off the line in January of 1989.

Besides utilizing tin plate with 30 percent recycled content in its manufacturing process, Bev-Pak also maintains a recycling division. Bev-Pak, for instance, has an arrangement with the Indianapolis Clean City Committee whereby Bev-Pak provides the trailers and the employees and the committee does collecting and educating.

"People are part of the problem--they are also part of the solution," maintains the IDEM's Joyce. A problem-solver is Pat Kellums who operates a recycling business in Tell City in southern Indiana. By his own admission, he has a different set of goals from most businessmen. "I am more of an environmentalist," he says. "My main source of funding is motivation and desire."

Kellums' operation is three-pronged, consisting of yard-waste, curbside and commercial programs. Once a week, his company picks up comingled recyclables at the curb. "We chose comingled because more people will do it," says Kellums. The yard waste his company picks up is either composted or used for erosion control. "It has a twofold benefit," he says. "We divert waste from the landfill and we improve our land."

In northern Indiana, at the Redeemer Lutheran Church in Highland, aluminum can recycling is helping to fund the education of the church's vicar, Shawn Kumm, at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. Parishioners have raised more than $1,250 this year in their "Can the Vicar" campaign.

What can business and industry do to enhance the recycling effort?

A good place to start, thinks the IDEM's Joyce, is right in the office where, she says, the average worker generates as much as a pound of waste paper a day. The white ledger and computer papers have vast potential for reuse in newsprint, toweling, writing paper and tissue. And don't overlook cardboard containers and kraft paper packaging.

"Every business should have an in-house recycling program," advises Stick With Steel's Mandich. "Then we will have educated people who know how to make these programs work." Recycling programs are usually started by public-spirited volunteers, he says. Businesses need to instill the recycling ethic in their employees who, in turn, can take it back to the community.

At present, proposals for surcharges on unrecyclables are under consideration, says Joyce. But, she believes, in the final analysis, education will make the difference. Her office disseminates information on recycling to the general public and to the schools. "Younger people are well-educated on environmental issues, she says. "Hopefully, they won't forget there is a permanent need (for recycling) in our society."

PHOTO : ALCOA recycles 7 million aluminum cans a year in its Warrick County facility. Bev-Pak in

PHOTO : Monticello manufacturers beverage cans from recycled steel. There's more to come.
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Title Annotation:Environmental
Author:Hughes, Ann
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Date:Jul 1, 1990
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