Despite approval from its own board members, Knox County Solid Waste Management District employees will not see a 3% salary increase in 2021.

Director Michelle Smith explained that while the district’s board of directors approved the standard cost of living pay increases, the measure was not approved by the county council during this month’s budget hearings.

“We have a binding budget, so even though our budget isn’t fulfilled by the county, we have to have their permission to spend the funds in our bank account,” Smith explained.

Each solid waste district in the state is funded differently. Some receive funding from the county, while counties with landfills are funded by tipping fees.

But Knox County’s SWMD is funded solely by residents’ $15 per year recycling fees, which are attached to property tax bills.

Those fees have not increased since the program’s inception in 2003, which presents another problem, Smith said.

She explained that while the organization has been able to sustain services offered thus far, the current fee doesn’t allow for any growth.

And as with nearly everything else — recycling now costs exponentially more than it did nearly 20 years ago.

“I don’t think many in the public understand that there is no money to be made in recycling now,” she said.

It used to be free to recycle materials, but now SWMD pays $45 per ton to recycle.

“And in the last two years our expenses have been significantly more because Household Hazardous Waste costs have also gone up,” she said.

The director said she understands residents outside of city limits are frustrated by not having a convenient recycling drop-off point, but without additional funding or a partnership, it’s unlikely the SWMD will be able to expand its services anytime soon.

Knox County’s SWMD doesn’t own any property and therefore relies on partnerships with other agencies and organizations to find homes for its recycling centers.

“We maintain all of our sites — put up fencing, have a yard office and have running water to stay safe and clean — but because we don’t own any properties, we have partnerships,” Smith said.

In Monroe City, the district uses space outside of the Blue Jean Center, and in Sandborn the recycling trailer is located on city property utilized by the water department.

In Vincennes, city residents have access to curbside pickup, offered both by the city itself and Republic Services, and the district is partnered with the city’s Street and Sanitation Department at 1600 Bayou St. for its HHW collection site.

But there is no centralized drop-off point for county residents.

Smith said they have acquired an additional recycling trailer and are still seeking a partnership for placement of that trailer so an additional recycling facility can be opened.

“We want to use it to expand our services in Vincennes Township. We just don’t have a location for it,” she said.

In the meantime, the district is still looking to fill one part-time recycling assistant position. The individual would be responsible for hauling and emptying the recycling trailers from the various locations.

Those interested in the part-time position or in partnering with KCSWMD are encouraged to call 812-895-4878 or email kcsolidwaste@co.knox.in.us.

In other news, Green Tree Plastics is up and running again after a large fire in August shut the Evansville manufacturing facility down.

Green Tree Plastics operates the ABC program, which typically sees classes of youngsters collecting pounds of plastic bottle caps that are then sent into the facility and transformed into something functional, such as a bench or a picnic table.

Smith is excited to see the business return — one which has created outdoor seating for several Knox County schools, organizations and other public spaces.

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