Patricia Bunner Colbert: IRC Recycling Rock Star
Updated: Sep 15, 2021
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Who knew a gift subscription to Ranger Rick Magazine decades ago would lead to a nearly 30-year career in solid waste management? That’s the spark that ignited Patricia Bunner Colbert’s enduring passion for recycling in Posey County.
Hired in 1992, Bunner Colbert is the first and only executive director of the Posey County Solid Waste Management District. In that time, she has transformed recycling culture in her area. Starting with no resources beyond a 2-drawer filing cabinet (still being used today!), she now operates five recycling drop-off centers.
Through her initiative and careful cultivation of relationships with materials brokers, Bunner Colbert has made a big impact on her area’s environment. When there were not any convenient drop-off locations, some residents resorted to unsafe methods of disposal. Burning trash, abandoning appliances, and dumping toxic materials into the ecosystem were not uncommon practices.
Bunner Colbert recognized her community’s needs and implemented five convenient recycling drop-off centers. Thanks to her response, those harmful acts happen less often. The recycling centers even evolved into informal social gathering places for folks in her community.
She is a hands-on director. She may spend half of her day on a grant application or connecting with clients and brokers, and then spend the other half on a forklift hauling recyclables. In her spare time, she also serves as Vice President of the Indiana Household Hazardous Waste Task Force.
Bunner Colbert reminds Hoosiers that recycling is not just an environmental cause: it’s also a job creator. A milk jug tossed in the trash may require a few workers to handle. But more jobs can be created if that same jug is recycled into plastic lumber to build someone’s deck.
She invites everybody to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day this year and reflect on the improved quality of environmental awareness the holiday brings. She appreciates her good team, her supportive Board of Directors, and the Indiana Recycling Coalition’s recognition and support of those in smaller, remote areas of the great Hoosier State.
Written by David Johnson