New recycling plan could save county $200,000-plus annually
But agreement with Milwaukee will likely close Waukesha recycling facility

By MATT MASTERSON - Freeman Staff

July 12, 2014

Bales of recyclable materials await transport in the Waukesha County Materials Recycling Facility.
Freeman file photo

WAUKESHA — A plan which will be brought before the Waukesha County Board this month could save the county hundreds of thousands in recycling costs, but may also lead to the closing of a local recycling facility. Dale Shaver, director of the county‘s Department of Parks & Land Use, is recommending a plan under which Waukesha would partner with the city of Milwaukee to send all of its recyclables to a joint facility in the Menomonee Valley.

This intergovernmental agreement originally sought to use the current Waukesha County Material Recycling Facility on South Prairie Avenue as a transfer station, where materials could be compacted down before being taken to the joint facility.

However, it was later found that by taking materials directly to the Menomonee Valley location, the county can save an average of $267,703 annually over a seven-year period — a 44 percent savings totaling approximately $1.8 million. Shaver projects that therefore, the South Prairie Avenue location would fall out of use and be shut down.

“We are going to be recommending to the County Board that we should not operate that transfer station,” he said. “These trucks are going to be larger, and because all the material is now going to be single- stream, it can be compacted in these trucks much more than it was dualstream, so they would have fewer trips down to the joint facility down in Milwaukee.”

If approved, this would affect 25 of the 37 communities in Waukesha County — only those that chose to allow the county to handle their recyclables after the Wisconsin Recycling Law passed in 1990.

Under this new plan, Waukesha County would pay ReCommunity — the vendor handling the raw recyclables — $30 per ton to process that material. In return, the county would get back 80 percent of the cash value of the recyclables. ReCommunity would also have to pay the county $2 per ton for an educational program, which would total approximately an additional $60,000 per year.

Lucia Martinez, left, and Alicia Dickerson sort recyclable materials in the Waukesha County Materials Recycling Facility in this February 2013 photo. The site could close under a plan being considered by the County Board.
Freeman file photo

If the recycled materials are then sold for an average of $120 per ton — which is what the county‘s five-year average selling price has been — then according to Shaver, the county could make back approximately $2 million after all expenses by 2030. For local residents, Shaver said, the new system would also make their lives easier.

“Instead of separating out your cardboard and your paper from your plastics and your metals — it goes all in the same bin,” he said.

A wider variety of plastics could also be recycled, such as containers for fruit and orange juice and plastics from toys, which were previously thrown away.

The plan will be brought to the Executive, Parks & Land Use and Finance Committees next week before it is heard by the full County Board at its July 22 meeting.

A truck enters the Waukesha County Materials Recycling Center Friday. The facility could be closed in a new plan to integrate recycling with Milwaukee.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

Waukesha County Legislative Policy Advisor Sarah Spaeth said many of the county supervisors seemed to favor the plan when it was brought before the board earlier this year.

“When this went to the County Board as a project, it was very well received,” she said. “(There was) one dissenter in the whole thing, and basically, that supervisor‘s community is not part of this.”

If the plan is approved by the board, Shaver said, he hopes to have each of the 25 communities contracted with a company to haul their materials by this fall. If that happens, the plan would be ready to go into effect by early next year.

“Our goal is to have them in place by September and then the communities could sign the hauling contracts with their haulers and we would be ready to start receiving material by January 2015,” he said.