One (expensive) recycling step forward, two garbage steps back

Wisconsin State Roundup

Published September 1, 2001  | September 2001 issue

Wisconsin has one of the more aggressive recycling programs in the nation, thanks to a recycling mandate passed in 1990. But state taxpayers are paying handsomely for it and still failing to slow the pace of waste tipping, or dumping, at its landfills, according to an investigation by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, citing state and federal reports.

The investigation found that an average of $65 million in tax dollars is spent annually to supplement more than 1,000 local recycling programs that typically cover less—often much less—than one-third of their costs through the sale of recycled materials. One of the state's biggest waste haulers also reported that businesses pay a similar amount to dispose of their recyclables.

An intent of the recycling law was to slow the fill rate at the state's landfills. But while recycling kept 760,000 tons out of landfills in 1999, out-of-state haulers dumped 1.4 millions tons of garbage into state landfills, an increase of almost 500 percent since 1995 and attributed to lower tipping fees in Wisconsin.

Ronald A. Wirtz