Recycling advocates want to make sure this isn’t the last Earth Day for recycling in the state. Jennifer Semrau, President of the Associated Recyclers of Wisconsin, said recycling has kept a lot of material out of Wisconsin landfills. “Recycling those items has saved the equivalent, since the program began in 1995, to approximately the need for 5 new landfills in the state. It’s approximately 400,000 tons per year that we recycle in the state.” Semrau said her members reacted with shock, upon learning that Governor Scott Walker’s budget proposed budget would end the state recycling mandate and cut funding for local programs. A number of legislators in Walker’s own Republican Party were surprised, too, and the Walker administration this week indicated a willingness to reconsider the recycling language in the budget. A coalition of recyclers met with state lawmakers on Thursday. “We’re going to continue to reach out and talk to those members of the Joint Finance Committee as well as our local legislators, to try to make sure that recycling remains in Wisconsin,” said Semrau.
Meleesa Johnson, the Chair of the Wisconsin Counties Solid Waste Management Association, also welcomed the news that Walker appeared to be backing away from the original budget provisions. But Johnson cautioned that the alternative, under which the state Department of Natural Resources would use a new per capita funding mechanism to reward local units of government that increase the size of their service area to 25,000 or more, could prove problematic to smaller, rural communities. That’s because those areas of the state face higher transportation costs. “There are many miles to drive within that rural community to collect recyclables,” said Johnson, who operates the landfill in Marathon County. “Also because our recycling processing facilities are regional. There’s not one in every county, there’s not one in every community.” Still, Johnson was optimistic after the meeting with lawmakers on Thursday. “I feel very confident that we will see Wisconsin’s recycling program continue,” she said. “I feel very good about that.”