The light shines off hundreds of glass bottles. The bottles clink as more glass is tossed into the large metal bin at the Bloomington Downtown Recycling Center.
After Nov. 23, there will be no more bottles, no more bundled cardboard, no more recycling center behind City Hall.
“I’m just going to close the gate and put up a sign, closed forever,” said Chad Roeder, the manager and operator of BDRC.
The closing of the center is part of the city’s plan to redevelop downtown and the Trades District into a tech park. Bloomington Communications Director Mary Catherine Carmichael said the plan will cause a great deal of disruption for the area, and already hard-to-find parking will become even harder to find.
“Every parking spot will be at a premium,” Carmichael said.
The recycling center was opened in 2011 as a partnership and pilot program between the city and Roeder. BDRC stretches across 19 parking spaces.
The property was provided to the recycling center without cost. In exchange, the center also did not costBloomington anything for the recycling process.
The center also functions as off-grid as possible, as it is powered by solar-powered energy and is not a part of the electrical grid system in Bloomington. BDRC is sustained by solar panels on the roof and uses rainwater to grow a small garden.
Roeder said during the center’s five-year operation, the center has kept 2,000 tons of recyclable materials from landfills.
Carmichael said the program was originally just a test case for the city.
“It ended up lasting a lot longer than the initial assumption,” Carmichael said.
Though the 19 spaces provided to the center were offered at no charge by the city, the cost of those spaces adds up, Carmichael said.
If the parking spots were released for reserved spaces, costing $67 a space per month, over the course of five years, the total cost would be $76,380. The city can no longer afford the cost during the redevelopment of the district.
“We don’t have a good space,” Carmichael said. “We wish we did, but we don’t.”
The city is thankful for all the work Roeder has done in helping the environment, Mayor John Hamilton said in a press release.
“Our community owes Chad and the volunteer workers and interns our gratitude,” Hamilton said.
While Roeder said he was not surprised by the notice the center would have to close, he said it is a significant chapter of his life he is leaving behind.
“I always knew, in the back of my mind, this day might come,” Roeder said.
Roeder said he knew the center was sitting on some of the most valuable real estate in Bloomington, but he thinks it has made a difference by providing convenient access to recycling services.
Bloomington has not found a new location for the center, and Roeder said he worries about the people who want to recycle and who are now left without an option.
“I think a number of them will have no choice but to stop recycling,” Roeder said.
In the future, Roeder said he would like to see something more than a recycling center in Bloomington, but he also said it would require plenty of buy-in from the community and city government.
Roeder said he envisioned a city greenhouse, a café with food from that greenhouse and more solar-powered initiatives.
“I’ve seen it as evolving into an eco park,” Roeder said.
Caddie Alford and Christ Thomas, graduate students in the IU Department of English and volunteers at the center, said they were shocked by the closing notice the city handed out.
Alford said she found out about BDRC when asking local businesses if there were any recycling options. One of these businesses pointed them to Roeder and his center near City Hall.
The center was conveniently located for local businesses that could not afford to go further to South Walnut Street and the other facility there.
“Without that, a lot of these local businesses are going to travel to South Walnut,” Alford said.
Alford said she started volunteering almost three months ago to help the Bloomington community she has become a part of and to vent about the lack of recycling in the city.
“I needed to channel my frustration,” Alford said.
If the center shuts down Nov. 23 as planned, Alford said she would just have to keep recycling as much as she can. Thomas said hopefully the city will help find a new location for the center, though he said the city has been uninterested in finding a new location.
“Ideally we’d like to see it get relocated,” Thomas said. “But we can’t do it without the city.”
Thomas and Alford said they saw people from all over Bloomington and from every background come to recycle.
Alford said she remembered when two women pulled up to the center. One had a car loaded with pro-life and pro-Trump stickers, and the other woman had bumper stickers that read “peace and love.”
Both these women were shocked the center had to close and Alford said that type of bipartisanship is one reason the center should remain. Alford said she is encouraging people to call Hamilton and ask him to reconsider his decision to close the BDRC.
Alford said she was still not convinced that facility must close and she is not giving up just yet.
“I can’t even imagine it ending,” Alford said. “I’m still fighting.”
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