Recently, we celebrated Earth Day, our annual opportunity to reflect on all things environmental. The day also highlighted an important component of Governor Walker’s proposed biennial budget: the state’s plan to cut recycle grants.
We are now several years into an economic recovery and that includes recycling operations in Outagamie County. More and more communities are joining the single-stream initiative. The towns of Seymour, Osborn and Ellington, to name a few, are poised to jump in.
It remains for us to make hay while the sun shines. As any business can tell you, the worst time to retreat is during a period of growth. And yet, this is precisely what the governor’s budget requires.
Local businesses and municipalities pay $1.7 million per year into the state’s recycling fund, based upon the state’s $7-per-ton recycling surcharge. Revenues are then granted back to local “responsible units,” the organizations or municipalities that mange recycling operations like Outagamie County. The proceeds are designed to offset the cost of curbside collection.
In 2010, Outagamie County received $800,000. A year later, that amount was reduced to $570,000. Now, the state proposes to reduce our grant by an additional $120,000. Should this budget provision be adopted into law, Outagamie County would see a paltry 25 cent return on each dollar we send to the state Recycle Fund.
Just when we’re ramping up, the state is telling us to scale back. Rather than reward efficient operations and promote environmentally-sound policy, this proposal undermines both.
Not only is the proposal bad business, it penalizes Outagamie county fee payers.
Outagamie County has a proven track record in recycling. We process almost one-fourth of the state’s total recycled material and lay claim to one of the largest single-stream recycling operations in North America.
Ours is a success story that we showcase to communities across the country and we have the awards and accolades to back it up. I am proud of the good work of our employees at the Recycling center and the high participation rates of all our cities, towns and villages. I hope you are too.
Thomas Nelson is the Outagamie County executive director.