When you throw something away, it normally ends up in one of four places: the landfill, recycling, in the streets or someone else’s home.
The most common place is the landfill.
At landfills, waste is filtered through a trommel, a device that separates plastic and other recyclables from trash that is later sent to the landfill where waste is buried and disposed, said Andy Harris, director of Governmental Affairs at Southside Landfill. Landfills can process up to 4,500 tons of waste a day.
Methane gas and carbon dioxide in landfills is captured and turned into renewable energy, which is better for the environment, Harris said. Unfortunately, waste does not always end up in the landfill.
Crystal Jones, 34, has lived in the Hillside neighborhood all her life. She often sees abandoned toys, clothes and other trash scattered along the sidewalks and streets and she picks up as much trash as she can whenever it is left around her house.
“I think the trash comes from people not caring,” she said. “They are throwing it out their cars or they have parties in the park, and they just leave their trash.”
Reduce, reuse and recycle has been a phrase often said to create awareness of the need to mitigate the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. Angel Williams has devoted years to reducing waste going to landfills. What most people see as trash, she sees as opportunity.
Williams, also known as Mom the Ebayer on YouTube and the author of “Finding Your Treasure,” has made a living off something many people view as unorthodox — dumpster diving.
“Dumpster diving is taking what other people throw away and turning them into treasures,” said Williams, who has found high-end brands such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Chanel while dumpster diving. She has also found household furniture and even $1,000 cash.
Williams takes the stuff she finds and donates a large amount to charities and other organizations.
The recycling process is not as simple as putting recyclable items in a bin. It is important to know what can and cannot be recycled.
Plastic items with food waste such as ketchup bottles and other condiment jars must be washed and dried before placing into the recycling bin.
Items that often fall into the recycling bin such as greasy pizza boxes, food, plastic bags, batteries and other electronics should never be placed in recycling bins, according to Republic Services.
Place recyclable items such as paper and cardboard, plastic bottles, metal cans and aluminum in the recycling bin and not in a plastic bag. Otherwise, they will end up in the landfill.
Indianapolis offers programs such as ToxDrop to safely dispose of hazardous waste such as batteries, electronics, lighter fluids and hairspray as well as drop-off locations for recyclable materials free of charge.
“ToxDrop days are the first three Saturdays each month and rotate throughout Marion County,” said Morgan Mickelson, director of the Office of Sustainability for the city.
Contact staff writer Terrence Lambert at 317-924-5243. Follow him on Twitter @TerrenceL.