Recycling may be cut

Story by Eric Larson

While the majority of public employees across Wisconsin remain nervous about Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget repair bill, a newly-released detail about his plans — which proposes the elimination of mandatory recycling from state law — may soon add recycling program employees to the list of the weary.

Walker, in his highly anticipated presentation of the 2011-13 state budget plans last Thursday, said he plans to toss a state mandate on recycling, directing the reimbursed funding instead towards balancing the state’s budget.

Senior Audrey Mohr, geology major and vice president of the UW-Eau Claire Geology Club, said she was confused about the budget’s logic.

“It’s really unfortunate to sacrifice such a good program that we have,” she said. “Sustainable resources are few … there’s just so many benefits we’d be sacrificing here.”

Sam Reiss, Media Specialist for Clean Wisconsin in Madison (an organization focused on the fight for clean air and water in the state), said that Eau Claire ounty alone could lose up to $710,000 in funding for recycling if the bill is passed.

“That number alone represents 63.3 percent of the funding for the recycling program today,” he said. “We’re very concerned here, especially in regards to the progress this state has made in becoming sustainable … this would move us more than twenty years backward.”

Reiss said the current Wisconsin Recycling Law, which was passed in 1990, requires residents and businesses to recycle certain banned materials; additionally, it ensures that access is provided to locally run recycling programs.

Gov. Walker’s proposed budget, however, would eliminate those requirements — financial assistance for local governments would also be gone, Reiss said.

“Not only does this hurt financially, but the repeal of the recycling law will allow dangerous waste to build up in landfills,” he said. “And that could potentially be harmful to the people of Wisconsin’s health.”

Anna McCabe, recycling specialist of the Eau Claire County Recycling Program, expressed a further concern about the potential environmental effects of the bill.

“I can really see this causing people to just throw away their recycling to the landfills,” she said. “Everything everyone’s worked for is being undermined here … pollution will likely go up, and the manufacturers that need these recycled materials — paper, steel, etc. — will be in trouble as well. I really hope this isn’t a ‘gloom and doom’ situation.”

McCabe said that Eau Claire residents currently pay $8 a year for curbside recycling; the Chippewa Valley also provides drop-off sites for smaller communities.

“If this bill passes, though, drop-off sites will no longer be available,” she said. “And as far as curbside recycling … prices are going to really increase.”

Both Clean Wisconsin and the Eau Claire County Recycling Program have taken immediate action to attempt repeal.

In addition to publishing press releases and an opinion article, Reiss said members of Clean Wisconsin have been busy at the Capitol, talking with legislators and expressing the need for continued state-wide efficiency.

McCabe, during a phone interview with The Spectator, was simultaneously driving down to Madison to meet with elected officials and discuss the recycling law benefits.

“We’re trying to remain hopeful,” she said as she drove south-bound to the Capitol. “It’s going to be interesting, that’s for sure.”

As the budget remains in its proposal stage, Mohr said regardless of the outcome, she hopes Wisconsinites will continue to “think green.”

“Even though (the bill) is not mandated yet, I’d like to think people will continue taking the time and effort to recycle,” she said. “Even if the state doesn’t say it’s necessary, it doesn’t mean we should stop appreciating and maintaining a green community.”