Beginning in 2012, Carmel residents will experience changes to their trash and recycling services. A new ordinance, passed this September, will provide curbside recycling to all residents and transform Carmel’s trash and recycling system. While the program faces some opposition, this ordinance is a step forward in Carmel’s pursuit of environmental responsibility.
Junior Lauren Gibson said she is a strong supporter of the new trash and recycling program. As the founder of the Carmel Green Teen micro-grant program and a winner of Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots Global Leadership Award, Gibson is dedicated torecycling and helping the environment.
According to Gibson, this program simplifies recycling. Because the program picks up recyclable materials at homeowners’ curbs, it eliminates the past hassles Carmel residents faced with recycling.
“(Before) you would either have to gather all your materials and drive it to a separate recycling place like the hazardous waste center, or you’d have to pay extra for a company to pick it up curbside,” Gibson said. “(The new program) can just have such an amazing impact because it really helps those who want to recycle but weren’t able to because it was such a hassle before.”
The program also helps residents by providing “commingled recycling,” a method of recycling that allows different materials to be recycled together without being sorted. This means that glass, plastics, paper and other recyclable products can be placed in the same container, saving time and energy for residents.
The city had several reasons for switching to this new trash and recycling system, but according to Sue Maki, manager of customer relations and education for Carmel Utilities, the input of residents was one of the most influential pressures in implementing this program.
“(Residents) have been asking the mayor ‘Hey, mayor…we want recycling for everybody, why can’t we have recycling for everybody?’” Maki said. “We took two long surveys of the residents to see how they felt about it. It was an overwhelming majority that felt very much in favor of the program.”
While the program has the support of the majority, it still has some opposition. The new program will make Republic Services the only trash and recycling company to serve Carmel. Previously, residents of the city could choose their trash service provider, and some say the new ordinance restricts this freedom of choice. Some also argue that this ordinance eliminates competition between companies and creates a monopoly.
Gibson, however, said she believes the ordinance is still reasonable because Republic Services was chosen as the provider of Carmel through a bid, not arbit
“People do have a choice on their (trash) provider and some of the opposition is saying that this gets rid of their choice,” Gibson said. “But there was a bid. Other companies bid but Republic won the bid, so I’m not sure if that’s a valid argument.”rarily.
The new trash and recycling program, however, is not mandatory, and residents have the opportunity to opt-out of the program. According to the City of Carmel’s website, residents must have turned in an opt-out form before Oct. 15, 2011 to opt-out of the program for the 2012 year. To opt-out for the subsequent years, residents must submit an opt-out form between June 1 and June 30.
Despite opposition to the program, the new trash and recycling system is a major step towards environmental awareness for Carmel. The city has been developing this recycling program for several years, but it is just now being implemented due to the precautions that had to be taken before it could be enacted. The city also took time to observe and learn from neighboring cities’ successes with similar programs.
“The city of Westfield went through this program about two years ago and we learned a lot (from it),” Maki said. “Being able to sit back and watch how they did it, they were very helpful to us. They shared a lot of information with us. By watching what worked and what didn’t work with them, we were able to benefit from their experience.”
The trash and recycling program isn’t the only step the city of Carmel is taking in pursuing a more green community. According to Maki, the city is currently building a water treatment plant that will run partially on alternative energy resources.
“We’re always looking at ways to be better stewards of our environment and there are several projects that are underway,” Maki said. “Our new water treatment plant that’s being built (is) going to be powered in part by geothermal energy, and we’re also going to have some solar power features out there as well.”
Gibson said that despite the extended time the city took to pass “green” programs, Carmel is still making progress in becoming more environmentally friendly.
“Indiana is one of the least green states in the country. I think its ranked 49th out of 50 now, so it could definitely be doing more,” Gibson said. “But I think (Carmel) has definitely been taking huge steps in the past few years. This curbside recycling program will definitely help the city.”