very day, about 2.5 tons of newspaper, plastic and cans are collected at a recycling center in the Center Grove area.
Annually, more than 3.4 million pounds of recycled items are collected by the Johnson County Solid Waste Management District. The taxpayer-funded office is in charge of safely disposing household cleaners or batteries and prescription medications, but also offers six spots where residents can recycle their newspapers, empty soda cans and cardboard.
Recycling drop-offs and disposing of electronics, such as computers or DVD players, are the most popular services the office offers, director Jessie Biggerman said.
Story continues below gallery
Across the state, all counties have solid waste management districts, which are funded with tax dollars, after they were required by state law. In Johnson County, all taxpayers pay for the district’s annual budget of about $552,000 per year, which includes three employees, an office in Franklin, a tox box for chemical disposal and the recycling spots.
Now, state lawmakers are considering a proposal that would allow counties to eliminate solid waste management districts if they think it is not needed, or combine services with another county.
State Sen. Rick Niemeyer, R-Gary, who is a co-author of the bill, wants county officials to be able to decide whether the solid waste management district is necessary, he said. Currently, if local officials want to change something about their solid waste management district, the state needs to approve the change, Niemeyer said.
“This isn’t a vendetta against solid waste boards in the state. This just takes the state out of it,” Niemeyer said. “We told them they had to form these boards, but we didn’t give them any money to fund them.”
“They (county officials) should have a little bit more jurisdiction over what they do,” Niemeyer said.
Local officials said the county’s solid waste district is needed because it gives residents a place to properly get rid of unused paint, cleaning products and recycling.
Johnson County Commissioners Ron West and Brian Baird aren’t considering eliminating the solid waste district, they said.
If it was eliminated, the county would still be required to provide services, such as household hazardous waste removal. But the county would not have to provide recycling, Biggerman said.
If the recycling spots close, residents would have to pay extra each year to have curbside pickup with their trash company or drop the items off at a nearby recycling location.
The solid waste management district manages where those recycled items should go, including taking them to a facility such as Ray’s Indianapolis Recycling or Best Way Disposal, with the money taxpayers already pay. Otherwise, residents and businesses would need to pay extra.
Johnson County officials said they plan to keep the district, regardless of what happens with the legislation.
“We’re not interested in dissolving ours, or changing anything,” West said. “It’s working great.”
Biggerman’s concern is whether other counties will do the same, she said. For example, if Brown, Shelby and Morgan counties all decided to dissolve their solid waste management districts, residents from those counties could start bringing their recycling and waste items here, she said.
Although recycling is not required to be offered by the solid waste management district, it is one of the most used services. Here’s a look at the solid waste management district:
3: The number of employees at the Johnson County Solid Waste Management District
$552,219: the 2015 budget for the solid waste district
58: The number of tons of electronics, such as laptops, cell phones or fax machines, recycled last year
1,716: The number of tons of paper, cardboard, plastic and cans were recycled from the six recycling spots last year
Source: Jessie Biggerman, director of Johnson County Solid Waste District