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Recycling center may close for lack of funds


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By Brett Frieman




Lack of community support and insufficient funds may cause the Downtown Bloomington Recycling Center to close as early as July.

The center reopened in October after being closed for a few months in order to improve efficiency, labor costs and problems with shipping.

Adjustments included reducing the number of hours per week the center was open and cost-saving tactics in sorting glass, cardboard and plastics the center receives.

Though these improvements provided a temporary fix, center manager Chad Roeder said it will take outside help to stay open.

“This project, through its service to the public and improving quality of life in Bloomington, has generated a lot of scrutiny from both public and private sector interests,” Roeder said. “Because we help to divert material from the landfills, we are taking a chunk of market share from the large waste haulers, who also have a lot of influence over city and county policies.”

Location, infrastructure, economics and politics have all affected the recycling center’s uncertain future, Roeder said.

Currently, the center is located on city-owned property slated for development under the Master Plan of the Certified Technology Park.

A city-based project, the master plan would use multiple acres downtown to support the attraction and growth of high-technology business and promote technology transfer opportunities.

This could be a potential threat for the center’s location, Roeder said, but there has been no indication the center’s land is under immediate threat of evacuation.

Roeder said he has been in communication with city officials from the departments of Public Works and Sustainability in order to resolve the issue.

The main disadvantage of the center is the lack of baling and compacting equipment in order to improve efficiency, Roeder said.

Roeder said the center has made significant progress toward lowering shipping costs and increasing revenue for recyclable materials.

However, they would not be able to fully control the destiny of the recyclables and receive the maximum market value unless they can get the materials into a market-ready state.

“With a few modifications to our existing location and an increase in space, we could help to serve a much larger population,” he said.

The projected revenue from recyclable materials for 2014 after shipping, maintenance and other costs is slated to be about $11,000.

This amount is not enough to sustain the center year after year, Roeder said.

Roeder has investigated some options for retail as well as other ways to increase the profitability of the center.

In addition, the center might consider establishing nonprofit status or reaching out to IU for more community support.

Josh Jackson, a volunteer at the recycling center, said it was difficult to keep the center going with the funds available to the owners.

Despite the lack of resources, the community has shown support for the center, Jackson said.

“So far, the response from the community has been strong,” Jackson said. “People are showing they want to keep the recycling center in town.”

Roeder said one idea they’ve considered is establishing the center as part of a curriculum on waste management for students in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

For now, the center will keep working toward these improvements and plans in hopes to stay open past July — but it may need help from local residents.

“I believe that we can keep the project viable in the coming years, but it will have to be more of a community effort,” Roeder said. “The responsibility for continued maintenance and planning for its long-term viability is too much responsibility for a small business owner to handle alone.”

Follow reporter Brett Frieman on Twitter @brttfrmn.

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