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You asked, we answered: Why doesn’t Indy have citywide curbside recycling?

A large pile of plastic bottles and cans collected on a street corner in downtown Manhattan, New York. (Photo By Epics/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS (MIRROR INDY) — Indianapolis doesn’t have citywide curbside recycling. Much of the city’s waste is burned at an incinerator owned by a company called Covanta, in exchange for steam energy. 

But change could be coming in 2026, and the city is in the middle of a years-long process to create a citywide program for Indy residents to recycle at the curb.

Learn more about why Indy doesn’t have this program in place already, how you can recycle now, how to share your opinion and more: 

Why doesn’t Indianapolis have citywide curbside recycling?

Turns out, my colleague Emily Hopkins answered this question with another reporter when they worked at the IndyStar. Their 2019 investigation told the story of Indy’s history with waste solutions. For years, the city has burned trash at an incinerator, creating steam energy. When the city sends more trash, it gets cheaper steam energy to power city-owned buildings. 

What are my options if I want to recycle now?

You can pay to have items picked up, which starts at about $30 a quarter, or you can take recycling to a drop-off location. There are composting options, too. 

From the city’s “Recycling 101” web page, here’s how to request curbside recycling:

  • If the Department of Public Works (DPW) or Republic Services collects your weekly trash, call Republic Services at 317-917-7300 to sign up for recycling pickup.
  • If Waste Management collects your weekly trash, call Ray’s Trash Service at 317-539-2024 to sign up for recycling pickup.

[You can also go absolutely bananas on Earth Day. Learn where everyone is going.]

When will Indianapolis have a curbside recycling program?

The city created a timeline to track progress toward the 2026 goal, and they’re on schedule. Right now, they’re requesting business proposals from different recycling companies and will choose the best one. 

The goal to implement citywide curbside recycling is part of Thrive, a broader plan created to address environmental issues in Indianapolis. City-County Council’s Environmental Sustainability Committee will hear updates, and you can find the dates for meetings here and agendas here.

Who can I talk to if I have questions or concerns?

You can contact the Office of Sustainability at 317-327-4000 or at sustainindy@indy.gov

“People who care about this issue should reach out to this administration, while they’re in this process, to express their support for countywide curbside recycling,” said John Barth, City-County councilor who represents District 7 and is the head of the Environmental Sustainability Committee. “Now is the pivotal time that people can have their voice be heard in a meaningful way, and so they shouldn’t hesitate.”

[We answered your questions on how to recycle items that don’t fit in the bin.]

Who’s paying for this?

“That’s part of the issue that we are sorting through, and I’ve asked the city to make recommendations on how to pay for this. Whether it can be absorbed somehow with offsetting other costs of the existing city budget is an open question,” Barth said.

How will the city educate people so they can recycle responsibly?

You can learn more about what you can and can’t recycle at the city’s Recycling 101 page. Barth and the Environmental Sustainability Committee led a three-meeting series on recycling information in 2023, which you can watch

“A lot of people will bring material to the drop-off sites and hope or assume that it’s recyclable,” Barth said. “That causes trouble in the acceptance and distribution of the material.”

In 2025, the city plans a public engagement and outreach initiative before the new service begins.

You ask, we answer

Special thanks to Indy Documenter Andrea Drygas for asking the recycling question. At Mirror Indy, we partner with the Documenters, who are citizens trained and paid to take notes at public meetings. Drygas brought up the questions in her notes after attending February’s City-County Council’s Environmental Sustainability Committee meeting. 

Have a question about how things work in Indianapolis? Email Sophie Young, service journalism reporter, at sophie.young@mirrorindy.org.

A correction was made on March 18, 2024: An earlier version of this article did not state the correct department to contact for concerns about recycling. Residents with concerns should contact the Office of Sustainability, part of the Department of Public Works.