Governor Walker used the state budget to try to can recycling. Even though the proposal was ultimately denied, the people of Wisconsin had a chance to see Governor Walker’s true colors…and green was not one of them.
Wisconsin has always been a leader in the push for better recycling programs. In 1990, Wisconsin was one of the first states in the country to pass mandatory recycling laws and, as a state, we have a nationally recognized recycling system. An incredible 90% of residents participate in recycling programs!(1) It’s just what we do. Which is why voters of all political persuasions were shocked and downright mad when Governor Walker snuck a provision into his budget eliminating state recycling requirements and all funding for municipality and county-run recycling programs.
His actions sent a clear message that Wisconsin was not open for recycling businesses. His suggested rollback of the recycling program would have cost Wisconsin 97,000 jobs and over $5.4 billion in economic activity.(2) Companies across the state that depend on recycled materials like landscaping firms, electronics recyclers, plastic and paper mills, and metal producers would have been forced to close their doors and lay off employees.
Our recycling program has always been a no-brainer because it reduces the size of those ever-growing landfills by diverting 2 million tons of solid waste every year. At our current recycling rate, Wisconsin citizens save space equivalent to the size of an average municipal waste landfill every 1.5 – 2 years.(3)
Recycling also keeps Wisconsin’s land and air clean and healthy with 73% less air pollution and 80% less waste. Recycling saves valuable resources such as trees, minerals, water, and energy. If paper mills use recycled paper in their products, they save 60% of the water that would be used if they started with virgin pulp.
Fortunately, after the citizens of Wisconsin fought back, the Joint Finance Committee came to see the error of Walker’s ways. In a rare occurrence, the members of the Committee chose to go against Walker’s recommendation, ultimately restoring recycling (although support for recycling to local governments was still cut from $32 million to $20 million). Today, Wisconsin’s prized recycling laws remain in intact – no thanks to Governor Walker.