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.