Walker signs recycling bill, funding still short

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker April 27 signed legislation to increase recycling grant funding in the state, but the money is still short of where it was when Walker took office.

The governor, in a signing ceremony at J & S General Contracting in Osceola, signed AB 515, making it Act 392.

“I was happy to support it,” state Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, said of AB 515. However, she added, “We’re still grossly below what we were and even less than what we had last year.”

The legislation increases by $3 million the recycling grant funding provided to the state Department of Natural Resources for fiscal 2015-16. The DNR issues the grant money to local governments for efforts that “positively impact the day-to-day operations of local government recycling programs.”

The measure, passed with bipartisan support in the Assembly and the Senate, is intended to reduce the harm caused by a $4 million cut to the state recycling program in the 2015 budget bill.

“I wish it was substantially more,” Sargent said of the funding. “I wish we hadn’t slid backward.”

Meanwhile, environmental watchdogs report that recycling in the state has declined and they suggest a tie to funding cuts.

In its campaign to restore funding, the nonprofit Clean Wisconsin informed its membership that the $4 million cut to grants for municipalities resulted in cuts to curbside pickup, reduced hours at recycling drop-offs and higher service fees for residents.

“Combined with other cuts over the last five years, recycling fccleunding has been reduced a whopping 53 percent,” CW informed members, urging them to urge Walker to sign AB 515.

The DNR’s overall numbers show residential recycling at:

  • 423,661 tons in 2008.
  • 420,047 tons in 2010.
  • 396,653 tons in 2011.
  • 390,770 tons in 2012.
  • 412,874 tons in 2013.

From 2010 to 2011, money for the recycling grant funding program went from $32.1 million to $20 million under the Walker administration.

Other factors figure into recycling rates, including several positive trends: industries have reduced amounts of packaging materials, consumers have economized on the packaging they bring home, single-stream programs in some locations has made recycling easier, as has increasing pickups.

“I’ve never met a person who said we should recycle less,” said Sargent.

About 94 percent of Wisconsin households recycle, according to Clean Wisconsin, a statewide environmental group.

Did you know?

About 94 percent of Wisconsin households recycle, according to Clean Wisconsin, a statewide environmental group.

Recycling on the Web

Recycling information from the DNR.