News from Memphis: It's Now or Never



This week, I had the opportunity to travel to Memphis, Tennessee to join over 600 colleagues from Keep America Beautiful Affiliates across the country. Highlights included the amazing food, including crawfish, and a visit to Graceland to commune with Elvis.

More importantly, I participated in a variety of sessions, including strategy planning for the entire network, and met fellow Executive Directors from statewide and big city affiliates, to share best practices, and to ensure KIB is achieving maximum impact. And among our peers, we are succeeding.

As a result of our amazing network of volunteers and our hardworking staff, KIB won two separate awards: for “sustained excellence” over many years, and also the top award for an affiliate in a city with a population over 250,000—winning out over worthy affiliates in cities including Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Phoenix. This is in large part because of you—our loyal friends—who devote your own time and energy to help make Indianapolis a clean, vibrant city. That work is recognized, and you can come by our offices and see the plaques hanging on the wall as a testament to your hard work.

The other big takeaway for me was a discussion on recycling. There has been a lot of news about recycling recently and most of it has been bad. For many years, recyclable waste from many countries was all sent on a slow boat to China, including 51% of the world’s plastic scraps, and 55% of paper scraps. China had to contend with huge quantities of non-recyclable materials that were thrown in the mix. At the end of 2017, China enacted a policy known as “National Sword,” which prohibited imports of many recyclable materials, and on top of that, insisted on a purity level of 99.5%! As a result, exports of recyclable materials to China have dropped significantly over the past two years.

This has created an opportunity for states like Indiana to step up to the plate and do more right here at home! According to the EPA, for every 1,000 tons of material that are recycled in the U.S., it creates on average of 1.57 jobs, $76,000 in wages and $14,101 in tax revenues. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management calculates that in 2018, Indiana residents created 8.8 million tons of trash, and recycled or composted just 20% of that, while 75% went to landfill. In contrast, some cities like San Francisco are able to recycle and compost 80% of their waste.

So, if we are able to double our recycling rate in Indiana up to 40%, that would equate to over $130 million in new wages, $25 million in new tax revenue, and almost 2,750 new jobs!  Not only would that be a boost to Indiana’s economy, it would also lessen the amount of bottles, cans, and plastic bottles we see on our city streets, clogging up storm drains, and floating in the White River.

Here’s what we need to do:
If you can, pay the $100 per year (roughly $8.50/month) for Republic to pick up your recyclable materials. But please pay attention to their requests and ONLY put materials that they can allow in the recycling. If you put the wrong materials in the recycling bin, there is a very real risk that the entire bin will get tossed into the landfill instead. The materials recovery facility can only process certain items, so pay attention.

Or, you can drop off recyclable materials yourself! You can find a list of recycling centers in Indianapolis at this website:

And, to all of my fabulous Adopt-A-Block captains out there, if there is a high percentage of glass, plastic, and aluminum cans from your weekly litter pickups, it’s better to have them recycled! Let’s all chip in!




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