Posts filed under ‘Some Background’
Be sure to remember Mother Earth on your shopping list this year! What do you get the planet that has everything? Fortunately for all of us, Mother Earth doesn’t have expensive taste. She just wants all of us to do a little more to show we care.
Mother Earth has been working really hard this year to keep up with all of the changes happening in her life. Give her a break and let her sleep a little longer in the dark these days: always turn off lights in unoccupied rooms around your home and use less lighting for holiday decorations.
She also appreciates the crisp cool air of the holiday season so be sure to keep the thermostat down and instead possibly wear some of the sweaters you received as gifts in past years.
Nothing makes Mother Earth smile like a batch of freshly baked holiday compost soil. Consider giving Mother Earth the gift of starting a compost bin or pile in your yard or where you work or go to school. Much of your holiday waste could be composted instead of trashed including your tree, food waste, organic decorations, and shredded paper.
Another great idea for Mother Earth is to treat her to a facial! Mother Earth always loves to be pampered with new native gardens and trees naturally landscaped to enhance her beauty.
Mother Earth has also been very generous, digging into her savings account the last several years to let us manufacture new things out of natural resources. So be sure to recycle the stuff we already have and let Mother Earth keep some savings to splurge on herself!
Remember, you can’t go wrong with anything green, organic, efficient, resourceful, or that does less to stress her out.
If nothing else, Mother Earth always appreciates a hug!
- There are currently 70 operating, licensed landfills in WI, which is down from 1,158 in 1980. These landfills took in 10.8 million tons of solid waste. 1/5 of all waste landfilled in 2007 was from other states. Trash is down 3.2% in 2007 from 2006. 2008 numbers were not in this part of the report.
- Over 11,000 Wisconsin businesses, schools, and government institutions create hazardous waste each year.
- 1,061 different recycling programs in the state (a.k.a. Responsible Units)
- 411,047 tons of paper and containers were recycled by residential recycling programs in 2007. When businesses are included, this number rises to over 1 million tons of recyclables. This is the equivalent of taking 657,480 cars off the road for the year.
- It was a big year for construction & demolition waste. UW-Whitewater while demolishing old buildings and constructing a new business building recycled over 14,000 tons of materials. The demolition recycling rate was at 98%! Also, the Marquette Interchange project reused fly ash and some other industrial waste material to reduce costs and the environmental impact of road construction projects. There is also a growing mechanism to support asphalt shingle recycling.
Closer to Home
- Waukesha County processed 22,662 tons of residential recyclables. That saved enough energy to power 2,281 homes for 2008.
- Recycling earns your municipality money! In 2008, recycling dividends totaled $879,246.
- Over 2,000 people visited the Materials Recycling Facility. Schedule your tour today by calling 262.896.8300 if you are a community group, school group, or scout troop in Waukesha County.
- If you can’t make it to our facility, let us come to you! In 2008 our staff completed 63 presentations.
- Collected a total of 200,270 pounds of hazardous waste, a 1% increase compared to last year.
What is on our agenda for this year?
- We would love to inform your organization about recycling, green gardening practices with less pesticide use, green cleaning presentations, composting, and more.
- We are planning several Boy Scout Merit Badge Workshops.
- We will have a new traveling trunk to supplement the LEAF curriculum. If you are a teacher, visit our teacher page at www.waukeshacounty.gov/EnvironmentalEd to stay up to date with all of our new curriculum assistance and to download lessons that are already currently available.
- And tons more! Make sure to stay tuned!
Let’s talk some trash. The average Wisconsinitte creates over 4 1/2 lbs. of trash a day. This is what we put into landfills, and does not include all that we recycle. Despite the fact that we put so much stuff into landfills, most people know very little about them. So here we go: a little bit of info about landfills.
Where is the dump?
Nowhere. There are no dumps in Waukesha County, only landfills. This may seem like picky syntax, but there used to be dumps and now there are not so depending what you are getting rid of, you may have to go to a different location. Do you have something to trash? The first step is to make sure you can throw it in a landfill. According to Wisconsin state law the following items are banned from landfills.
- Lead acid batteries
- Major appliances
- Used motor oil
- Yard waste (Scroll down to ‘Item Questions’)
- Newspapers, magazines, courrugated cardboard, office paper and other recyclable paper
- Glass, aluminum, steel, tin, and plastic (#1 & #2) bottles and cans
Other items can be recycled, such as electronics and textiles. Some harmful substances like paint, chemicals, medical wastes, and antifreeze can also be disposed of in a more proper way than tossing it into a landfill.
If landfilling is the only option, check with your municipality to inquire about how much trash you can put out for curbside collection. Each municipality contracts (or allows their residents to contract) for trash service individually. They may or may not have included bulky items in their contract. If the municipality did not contract for large or bulky item trash pick-up, there may be a drop off site your community pays for, or you may have to call your hauler and arrange for a special pick up.
If you need to take your items to the landfill, there are 2 in Waukesha County. These are privately owned enterprises and you should contact the landfills for information about their fee schedule. Muskego (Emerald Park Landfill) — W124 S10629 S 124th St. — (414)529-1360. They are open Fridays & Saturdays. The other option is in Menomonee Falls (Orchard Ridge Landfill) — W124 N9355 Boundary Rd. –(262)253-8620. They are open Monday through Saturday.
They are going to charge me to throw it away?
Yes. Wisconsin has some of the cheapest disposal rates, but there is a cost to toss. Your contracted collection through your municipality is paid for by your community, some part of which you may see broken out on your tax bill. On average, it costs $35 a ton to throw something away in Wisconsin. This does not account for collection costs.
Isn’t a landfill just a hole in the ground?
O.K. so the point of this blog is to answer the whys and hows of recycling, encourage everyone to get involved, recycle more, help the earth, sing kum ba ya on a daily basis, etc. Most of this information is universal, but because of crazy recycling laws, some of it will not be universal. I will always give a heads-up when I am giving information that may be different in varying communities.
In the US the reason there are different recycling practices from one community to the next is because recycling came from the bottom up. For example, there are very few national directives about recycling. (Notable exceptions come through the EPA which mostly deals with waste considered hazardous) Individual states then had to make up their own laws. Some states set goals for the amount they want to recycle (i.e. IL) while other states ban recyclable items from entering landfills (i.e. WI). You can easily understand how these two different laws would create very different recycling programs.
To complicate things more, in Wisconsin the state gives ‘recycling money’ (if you will) to each ‘responsible unit’. In layman’s terms this is any size community that has enough of a population to collect waste. Any town, village, or city gets money from the state to help with their recycling program as long as they meet some basic requirements (including citizen education). Programs designed by these different responsible units can vary greatly. Some municipalities only have drop off centers where residents have to drive to a central location and sort materials into 10 to 15 different categories. Some communities offer curbside pickup that requires residents to separate paper from bottles and cans. Some communities have huge bins that all curbside recyclables can go in. Some communities offer special programs for electronic recycling and some communities offer yard waste collection. So literally, if I move down the road, recycling could be totally different. Add to that mix businesses, schools, and apartment complexes fall under TOTALLY different rules, and well, you see how complicated it gets.
When this whole recycling law came to be in 1995 in Wisconsin, 25 of the 37 communities in Waukesha County came together to unite their recycling programs. So prep, collection, and education is almost identical in these communities. This is the program I know the best because I am a resident as well as an employee.
A little confusing and overwhelming, I know, but like I said I will always explain when giving local advice and if you are not in our program I would love to pass some resources your way on how to get connected in your own community.
So it seems as though every time I move there are different rules, processes, and hoops to jump through with what I can, should, and do recycle. (Which with going to college, getting my first place, and then getting married – well lets just say I have moved a lot recently) Until 6 months ago I just guessed what I was doing was right and figured if I was wrong that it didn’t matter all that much. After all, who am I, Captain Planet? But then I got a job in the recycling field and learning about the impacts of my simple actions really changed my mind. I spent too many years of my life and way too much of my money getting a teaching degree so I could change the world and affect the future. Well, here was one more way for me to accomplish that larger goal. So slowly I have been learning how important it is to change my habits in little ways to make a big difference. I hope to share some things I have done as well as why I have done them while encouraging others to make little changes as well. Since I am new to this whole green thing I also appreciate your support and ideas because if we all make a few little and local actions, we can make a global difference.
Last year 25 communities in Waukesha County recycled around 24,000 tons of materials. But why? The easy answer is that recycling is the law in Wisconsin, but that is just part of the story. Something motivates us towards action. Each week I will cover a different aspect of recycling and environmentally friendly living. I hope to have lots of information coupled with ideas on how to make easy, little changes that will have a big impact and affect the world around us all.
Despite the picture, I am not a seven foot tall raccoon, but trust me the raccoon’s picture is a lot cuter than any I could find of myself. And it is really hard to type with those claws. The Waukesha County Recycling team and I look forward to your questions and comments.