More than half million pounds of waste collected

Monday, December 4, 2006
Matthew Welker from the Greencastle Chamber of Commerce presented Anita Peters (center) and Lori McCullar from Ballon-a-Wish with this year's Spirit of Christmas Award during the Lights of Love ceremony Sunday at the Putnam County Courthouse.

Nearly 600,000 pounds of household hazardous waste and recyclable materials were collected in western Indiana this year, according to recent numbers from the West Central Solid Waste District in Greencastle.

Putnam County alone saw an impressive 239,706 pounds of material brought by nearly 600 vehicles during the annual Tox Away Day event conducted in May at the Putnam County Fairgrounds.

This came as good news for officials with the West Central board who met in Greencastle last week and learned that participation across the region in 2006 increased significantly over the previous year.

The recycling district, headquartered in Green-castle, includes the counties of Putnam, Parke, Montgomery and Morgan in west central Indiana. Each year, the district hosts one Tox Away event in each of the four participating counties.

West Central Director Jane Collisi told the board that this year's Tox Away events garnered a total of 567,392 pounds of material, including everything from paint thinners and oils to old tires, refrigerators and electronics.

Collisi said she thinks the extra participation this year is due, in part, to efforts by the district to "get the word out" through newspaper advertisements, radio spots and signs placed along the roads.

Similar successes are being reported on a statewide level as well.

The Indiana Household Hazardous Waste Task Force reported recently that for the period of 2000-2005, solid waste districts around the state have prevented more than 3.4 million pounds of hazardous chemicals from being poured down the drain where they can harm the environment.

On a national level, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that in 1999, recycling programs prevented 64 million tons of material from ending up in landfills and incinerators around the country.

Today, the agency said, the United States recycles 32 percent of its total waste, more than double the rate from 15 years ago.

Breaking the numbers down, the EPA reports that half of the country's paper is recycled each year, followed by 34 percent of plastic soft drink bottles, 45 percent of aluminum beer and soft drink cans, 63 percent of steel packaging and 67 percent of major appliances.

Unfortunately, funding and other issues prevent groups like West Central from conducting more than one of these hazardous waste collection drives each year. The closest areas to Putnam County where collection programs run throughout the year are Indianapolis and Tippe-canoe County.

In matters of funding, West Central receives most of its money from fees collected in each of the four participating counties.

The district also relies on grants from the state government.

In 2006, West Central received a little less than $13,000 in state grants, to be used for education programs for school children and training for recycling officials.

The Public Education and Promotion grant (PEP), through the Indiana Grant Recycling Program, provided a total of $540,906 to 51 state recycling districts in 2005, including Putnam County.

Also in 2005, the Indiana Department of Environ-mental Management (IDEM) gave $378,345 to agencies operating hazardous waste programs. Putnam County was not one of them.

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