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IDEM Awards $513K in Grants for Schools, Cities

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This baling machine in the print shop at Wabash Valley Correctional Facility in Carlisle, Sullivan County, flattens and bales cardboard before it is recycled. Such machines are a common use for grant funding.

Indiana Department of Environmental Management seeks to grow recycling by supporting county, non-profit, municipal programs

There were 16 recipients this year and a variety of entities — whether a non-profit, school or the solid waste district of a municipality.

Awards range from nearly $100,000 to just over $1,000.

Jennifer Helrigel is with IDEM. She said the program was reinstated in 2019 with the goal of increasing recycling programs within the area these entities service.

“… many of the grants that we award, they're for equipment, or expanding programs. We're looking for people to increase the amount recycled. And the other great thing that a lot of them do is education campaigns.”

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This composting project at Bethel Park Elementary in Marion County was funded by IDEM grant dollars.

Helrigel said one school district in Marion County started a composting program.

The grant period is 12 months — 24 if needed — with the goal of making a community impact and diverting materials from the landfill. Which is actually how the program is funded — through landfill solid waste fees.

“A lot of our money goes for funding equipment,” Helrigel said. “And I know it's not very exciting. But it does make a huge impact on an organization's day-to-day operation.”

Frequently, funding goes to bailers to compress cardboard and other recyclables. “And we have noticed since the pandemic that there has been a lot more cardboard and a need to process the cardboard efficiently,” she said.

This year, Ivy Tech Community College was the largest grant recipient at $96,000, with the intent of creating a college-wide system.

Staff at Ivy Tech have tried to create a recycling program in the past, but it didn’t take off because of a lack of convenience and education in recycling, said Brian Madison of Ivy Tech.

“So what this grant will help us do is really address that first problem of making it as easy as possible for our folks on our campuses to recycle,” he said.

They’ll have bins regularly placed on campus and train the staff and make sure their students understand what can be recycled. The goal is 50-percent of solid waste diverted from the landfill and recycled in 12 months.

They’ll use the Indianapolis campus’ successful program as a blueprint to roll out to the other locations. “… we would really like to get all of our campuses across all 19 campuses to that level,” Madison said. “So it's literally thousands of containers that we will need to make that happen across 60 locations.”

The second highest grant amount was $93,000 for a Marion County non-profit organization which provides school supplies to county teachers, called Teahcers’ Treasures.

Locally, Dubois County Solid Waste Management District was awarded $2,017 and the Gibson County Solid Waste Management District $1,000.