This Just In ...

Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely young daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.

Bye bye recycling?

I hear it often from locally elected officials that they hate state mandates, especially those that are unfunded. Recycling, though not unfunded, is a state mandate. Governor Walker’s proposed 2011-13 state budget removes the mandate and takes money given to locals to help run the programs and puts it toward economic development, i.e. job creation.

My guess is a lot of communities will continue to recycle, but they will have to decide how to operate:

1) Raise property taxes (A sure bet).

2) Require residents to drive their recyclables to a dump. (Another strong possibility).

3) Both of the above.

Some history is in order.

Wisconsin created several programs to manage solid waste following environmental concerns that arose during the 1980’s.

Recycling is intended to be voluntary aided by technical and financial assistance.

Municipalities that run recycling programs are called "responsible units." Every municipality in the state is included within one of 1,061 responsible units. For 2010, almost all responsible units (1,025 of 1,061), representing 99.5 percent of the state's population, received state-funded grants for a part of the costs of operating local recycling programs.

Each responsible unit is required to adopt and run a program to handle its solid waste. The units have the authority to impose recycling fees. A lien can be placed on a property with unpaid fees, collected like delinquent property taxes.

To be eligible to landfill and receive grants, a unit is required to have what is termed an effective recycling program. A unit seeking that designation asks DNR to perform a review of its program. DNR has 90 days to conduct the review. All 1,061 responsible units have been approved as having effective recycling programs. They are required to have 12 specific components to keep the distinction of being effective.

Over 99 percent of responsible units with populations over 5,000, and over 98 percent of the population in those units had access to curbside collection or a combination of curbside and drop-off collection. Over 94 percent of the units with populations less than 5,000 and 85 percent of the population in those units had access to curbside collection or a combination of curbside and drop-off collection.


Responsible units reported to DNR that they collected a total of 713,154 tons of recyclable

materials from residences in 2009. That’s the second-lowest total since 1997.

In 2010, the state gave $29.2 million in recycling grants to municipalities.

Several state programs offer financial help to municipalities and businesses. Funding comes from the segregated recycling and renewable energy fund (recycling fund). Revenues come from a recycling surcharge and a recycling tipping fee.


A recycling surcharge on businesses is 3 percent of gross tax liability for corporations or 0.2 percent of net business income for nonfarm sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability companies taxable as partnerships and S corporations (corporations that elect to pass corporate income, losses, deductions and credit through to their shareholders for federal tax purposes). A $4 per ton recycling tipping fee is the other revenue source to the recycling and renewable energy fund. The fee is charged against all solid waste except high-volume industrial waste disposed of in landfills in Wisconsin.

For many years in the past, rather than strictly enforcing recycling laws, the state has encouraged voluntary compliance and helped local units of government that administer solid waste programs with many forms of financial assistance funded by surcharges and fees.

Cuts to funding used to promote and encourage recycling make sense. The numbers previously mentioned supplied by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau clearly demonstrate Wisconsin has probably reached its recycling saturation point.

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