2010-05-17 / Front Page

County’s Recycling Center Offers Tax-Free Service For ‘Green-Minded’ Owen Residents

Economic Boost Has Led To Rise In Prices For Clark & His Crew
by Michael Stanley
Staff Writer

Owen County Recycling Center Director Bob Clark uses a shovel to remove trash from jamming up a trash crusher. (Staff Photo) Owen County Recycling Center Director Bob Clark uses a shovel to remove trash from jamming up a trash crusher. (Staff Photo) Any Owen County resident looking to make a more conscious effort to live a “greener” life can start by bringing recyclable goods to Bob Clark at the Owen County Recycling Center on State Road 46 West.

“I’m hurting right now, because the trash pays for my help. At the first of the year they raised my dumpster fees so I had to raise it to two dollars a bag and a lot of people quit bringing their trash here, but they’d bring recycles,” Clark explained. “We don’t charge for recyclables, it’s all free. In Greene County they charge $1 a bag, but if you start charging for recyclables you’re going to find it strung along the county roads. It’s also on the tax roll in Greene County, it’s not on the tax roll here (in Owen County).”

Owen County Recycling Center Director Bob Clark recently used some of his time to teach Mrs. Jill Brush’s second grade class from Spencer Elementary School about the importance of recycling. (Staff Photo) Owen County Recycling Center Director Bob Clark recently used some of his time to teach Mrs. Jill Brush’s second grade class from Spencer Elementary School about the importance of recycling. (Staff Photo) As the only county in Indiana to offer a non-tax funded recycling center, Clark volunteers his time to what he calls his “hobby.” Interestingly enough, the white fence that surrounds the recycling center is made of 100 percent recycled milk jugs.

“I’m supposed to be the only one in the State of Indiana that’s not on the tax roll,” Clark said. “I’ve got two new buildings, four crusher machines and the vehicles – all of it has been paid for out of the recycling.”

In January of 1997, Clark became the man in charge of the county’s recycling center and is in his thirteenth year in the capacity.

“I didn’t know anything about it, I just drove all over the state of Indiana to the different recycling centers just to see how to do it,” Clark explained. “Sally Jones filled out some grants and I went down to Martin County, it was the best set up I’d ever saw, so we modeled it after that. We were open almost six months before we got a bailer, we had a stack of plastic that looked like a mountain. It took Bill (Ligon) and I almost six months to get all of our cardboard bailed and all of our plastic taken care of to where people could come in.”

Currently, Clark has partnered with a company in Quincy, Illinois., represented by Jarred Evans

“He stopped to see how everything was and check out the operation. It was a Tuesday morning and I had a load ready to ship. I knew about what I was going to get out of it, about $1,600,” Clark said. “He said he’d give me a price and call me in the morning. When he called he said he’d give me $3,200, which was double what our old buyer wanted, plus there wasn’t a haul bill. I’ve been selling to him ever since. Bill and I went up there to spend a few days... his recycling center is a city-block square and under a roof. They put out 80,000 pounds every eight hours, with three shifts.”

In 2009, Clark made $30,000 less than in 2008 due to the economic downturn that led to lower and lower amounts paid out for recyclable goods.

In 2009, plastic goods such as soap and other dispensable substance containers went for $20 a ton, a drop of $140.

Magazines and paper were at $0 per ton, as was shredded paper. Plastic such as pop bottles was also reduced to $20, milk jug-type plastic dropped from $240 a ton to $100 a ton, and newspapers were reduced to $30 a ton.

Thankfully for Clark, prices have gone back up in 2010 as items such as magazines and shredded paper went from $0 to $50 a ton and $110 a ton, respectively. Soap bottles and other number-one plastic containers are up to $60 a ton; however, Clark recalled a time when he received $160 a ton for the same items. Newspapers, which were down to $30 a year ago, most recently went for $160 a ton, the most he’s ever received for newspapers.

“My last load of shredded paper had too much color in it, but I got $110 a ton for it, which was better than nothing,” Clark said. “Pop and water bottles are back to $160 a ton, and from our last load of milk jugs I received $320 a ton. China was full of plastic, they had a 40-acre field over there that was 10 bales high, that’s the reason the price went down for plastic. Just like cardboard, in the winter time, it will drop. My last load I got $165 a ton, but I’ve never gotten over $125 a ton, last year it was $25 a ton.”

Clark said his most recent visitor to take a look at his operation was a representative from the Monroe County Recycling Center.

“I told him you’ve got to run it right, that you leave your head beside the hat rack. He said he learned something,” Clark said. “They are foolish to take glass, because they lose money every year. There is no market for it. Our glass goes directly into the dumpster, I don’t charge people for it.”

When the center first opened in mid-1996, it was open just three days each week. Currently, Clark has three full-time employees with periodic help from Owen County Community Corrections.

“I’ve enjoyed it. When I retired, I didn’t ever think I’d be doing this. My brother wanted me to go into a welding shop with him, but I had done enough of that,” Clark explained. “The back gate is always open at eight o’clock, for people to drop things off on their way to work, but we’re open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. We save the county money. At the courthouse, it ran them about $800 a month to have the trash picked up. I take care of the library, the jail and EMS. At the jail I have to pay for their dumpster separate, because they empty it once a week. It costs about $130 a dumpster for the jail and EMS.”

In 2008, Clark brought in around $120,000, with the 2009 calendar year bringing in approximately $100,000. For 2010 to date, Clark has brought in around $27,000.

Currently, Clark charges just one dollar per bag for trash up to a 30-gallon bag, while bags up to 60 pounds are just two dollars each.

“This past Saturday was the worst day we’ve had, just 165 bags of trash. We normally get 300 to 400 bags,” Clark said. “We have fellas who bring in eight or ten big bags of plastic and no trash. I’m going to start asking, ‘Where are you taking your trash?’ I don’t want this (recycling center) on the tax roll, and neither does anybody else. My son lives in Greene County and he doesn’t like it, it’s so much a month on his taxes. It’s all included with the property taxes there.”

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