Resource Recycling News

Indianapolis sued over trash-sorting MRF

The City of Indianapolis has been hit with a lawsuit for reworking a city contract and giving the go-ahead to a controversial MRF without seeking alternatives beforehand.

The lawsuit, filed Sept. 5 by paper companies Graphic Packaging International Inc. and Rock-Tenn Converting Co., as well as a private citizen, charges that the Indianapolis Board of Public Works made its decision “without following the proper procedures designed to assure that the contract most beneficial to the public is entered into and that an open and public process is utilized.”

In addition, the lawsuit asserts that the deal “will degrade the recycling stream, harming both the public and the plaintiff companies that rely on recycled waste, and actually creates a disincentive for the City to promote clean recycling.”

This summer the City altered its current contract with waste-to-energy (WTE) firm Covanta and allowed the company to build a $45 million mixed waste processing center next door to its WTE plant. Recycling advocates and environmentalists at the time largely opposed the MRF, and they called on Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard to consider other recycling options.

Plaintiffs are urging the Marion County Superior Court to require the City to open up the floor for more proposals.

While the Indiana Recycling Coalition (IRC) is being careful not to “speak for the plaintiffs,” a statement from the group supports the notion of having the Ballard administration reconsider its decision.

“The IRC is relieved to learn that the courts are being asked to require the City of Indianapolis to go through a public process (as the plaintiffs believe is required by Indiana Code) for this significant long term City contract,” Carey Hamilton, the group’s executive director, said in a statement. “The IRC believes a competitive process would result in a waste disposal and recycling contract that would be much better for taxpayers, for recycling and for job creation.”

IRC has long held that Indianapolis is doing its citizens a disfavor by opting for the Covanta facility and contract renewal.

The City and Covanta, meanwhile, appear to be going ahead with plans as ironed out in their new contract. The City expressed confidence in a statement sent to Resource Recycling.

“We are perfectly within our legal right to amend our contract with Covanta,” City of Indianapolis spokesperson Stephanie Wilson said. “The City’s Office of Corporation Counsel will file a legal brief with the court, and that will provide more information.”

James Regan, Covanta’s spokesperson, confirmed the company is “in the permitting process” to build the new MRF.

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