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Residents urged to help reduce cost of Columbia County recycling program

March 21, 2019 GMT

Columbia County District 15 Supervisor Mark Sleger wants you to rinse your empty milk carton before tossing it in the recycling bin.

As the Columbia County Recycling and Solid Waste Department’s taxpayer impact has decreased steadily from $18 to $12 per household since 2012, Sleger says the department is inching closer to its goal of being completely self-funded.

Solid Waste Director Greg Kaminski said that goal could be realistic within two to three years.

But more help from the public is necessary, because the county needs the revenue from selling clean recyclables to make that goal happen.

“It’s the business of the people,” Sleger said. “I believe people have what it takes.”

The Columbia County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the transfer of $180,365 from the county’s 2018 general fund to cover an overdraft in the solid waste account.

Kaminski said additional trucking costs, a tighter market for recyclables and some major truck repairs were factors in the overdraft.

Kaminski said during an abnormally long 2018 spring thaw, a reduced weight limit for trucks was extended from about six weeks to 12 weeks. This meant more trips had to be made to haul loads to local landfills, which resulted in higher trucking costs than anticipated.

But Kaminski said the recycling issue hit the budget the hardest.

Sleger, one of six board members on the county’s Solid Waste Committee, said only China is importing certain recyclables — such as milk jugs, shampoo bottles and yogurt cups — and they have to be in tip-top condition.

That means greater awareness among residents across the county is important, he said.

“The citizen may have to raise the bar on what it puts into the recycling containers, particularly rinsing things before they go in,” Sleger said, noting that any food residue inside a carton could result in that item being rejected.

China raising the standard is a good thing to promote better recycling habits worldwide, and if Wisconsin can consistently churn out super clean recyclables, the county and the state at large could become a model elsewhere, Sleger said.

The county receives about $100 back for every ton of recyclables sold and shipped, Kaminski said. Those averages fluctuate a bit every month.

“It’s a rapidly changing business,” Kaminski said.

Aside from what citizens recycle on their own, many area businesses transport recyclables to Columbia County to save money on their own trucking costs, which helps funnel more dollars back into local communities.

A ton of recycled milk jugs is worth between $700 and $800 right now, Kaminski said.

That’s more valuable than a ton aluminium, Sleger said.

Increased automation, more community awareness about cleaning recyclables, separating garbage from recyclables and not throwing plastic bags in with recyclables could go a long way toward having fewer materials end up in a landfill and ultimately more tax savings, Kaminski said.