Posted: April 1, 2011
I have never considered myself an environmentalist. I have the utmost respect for the current movement to go "green", but I have never really adhered to many of the common practices to take care of the environment. That is, with the exception of recycling.
I take great pride in separating household items from the normal waste stream to ensure that unnecessary items are not being dumped in landfills. Our household takes the time to separate out the newspapers, (I average at least one paper grocery bag per week), aluminum cans, plastic, cardboard and glass from the regular refuse flow. I realize it's not much, but I try to do my part.
Now Governor Walker has proposed eliminating the subsidy to counties to pay for recycling services. Walker wants to use the $30 million in recycling fees collected annually by the state to help balance the budget, which is admirable. But, the requirement to recycle will still be in place and it will be up to individuals to administer their own recycling programs since municipalities will no longer be able to utilize the $7 per ton tipping fee that helps cover the cost of diverting tons of waste from landfills.
Fortunately, some Republican legislators, including some local conservative lawmakers, are opposed to the governor's proposal. Governor Walker wants to use the recycling fees for other economic development initiatives. But I maintain that the recycling industry is already a big player in economic development. Hopefully intelligent lawmakers will avoid what could become an unfunded mandate and not let the governor alter a program that is working well.
And nobody is getting rich from providing recycling services. I spend only $7 per year to receive residential service and my waste hauler makes about two bucks off of me each month. Add diesel fuel for $4 a gallon and source separation costs and my refuse hauler is break-even at best.
Regardless of what happens at the state level, counties are not going to scrap well-established recycling programs. In fact, consumers will likely be charged another fee to cover the cost of the current program.
For 20 years, recycling has been a successful public/private partnership in Wisconsin. Municipalities and businesses have invested millions of dollars in human resources, collection equipment, facilities and sorting equipment. That does not even include the thousands of individuals who work in the trash collection and recycling industries. To gut the program now would be a colossal waste of money that has already been spent to protect the environment for future generations.