Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

City Will Increase Recycling Pickups

Every-other-week recycling pickups will begin in June for most households.

By - May 3rd, 2021 03:19 pm
A garbage truck in a Milwaukee alley. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

A garbage truck in a Milwaukee alley. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

It’s about to become easier to recycle in Milwaukee.

Starting in June, the Department of Public Works will transition to a uniform every-other-week recycling pickup schedule. That will be an increase in pickup frequency for most of the city’s approximately 181,000 households.

The change is being funded by an approximately $1 million grant from nonprofit The Recycling Partnership. Most of the donation covers the cost of new 95-gallon carts.

A total of $529,000 directly funds the purchase of 18,615 carts from Rehrig Pacific. The company was also provided with $479,150 worth of resin to make the carts. The grant is being funded in part by Dow, Rehrig Pacific and the PepsiCo Foundation. The city had to provide $24,758 to access the grant.

The change only impacts those living in single family to four-family homes, most of whom currently see their recycling picked up once every three weeks.

Operating costs for the increased pickup frequency will cost the city approximately $125,000 annually. “We thought the $125,000 was worth it,” said Mayor Tom Barrett in a 2019 interview.

But the increased cost will not only create a convenience for residents, it is expected to increase the amount of materials collected.

“The estimate we have is it’s going to result in 10 million more pounds of recycling annually,” said Barrett. A city report estimates that it is the equivalent of taking 3,191 vehicles from the road, a net reduction of 15,031 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.

Milwaukee residents currently recycle more than 50 million tons annually, though the amount per household varies significantly by neighborhood.

The grant includes $120,000 for recycling education and outreach.

A minority of city households will see their recycling pickup frequency decreased, but the size of their recycling bins increase. Residents in an area roughly bounded by W. Capitol Dr., W. Canal St., N. 35th St. and the Milwaukee River use smaller 18-gallon bins with weekly pickups. Switching to carts will increase capacity and is expected to reduce litter because the new receptacle will have a lid.

The grant will not fix one of the most frequent neighborhood social media page complaints – winter recycling and trash pickups.

DPW will continue to redeploy its fleet of garbage and recycling trucks as snow plows when needed, delaying pickups at times.

Residents will continue to be able to bring recycling to the city’s two drop-off centers for free or call for special pickups.

The Recycling Partnership provided the city with a $30,000 grant in 2019 to study increased recycling pickups.

The City of Milwaukee accepts glass bottles and jars, aluminum and steel cans, food and beverage cartons, paper products, and #1, #2, and #5 plastic bottles and containers.

Plastic bags, which frequently find their way into recycling bins, are not accepted and frequently jam recycling machinery. The bags can be recycled on their own at Kroger grocery stores (Pick ‘n Save) or other participating retailers.

Milwaukee’s recycling is processed at a facility that is jointly owned by Waukesha County and operated by Resource Recovery Systems.

The city currently spends approximately $10 million on recycling annually, a cost that is reduced to approximately $5 million after revenue from selling materials, state grants and avoided landfill disposal costs are factored in.

Revenue from material sales fell starting in 2018 following a reduction in international demand driven by China. Milwaukee was not as heavily impacted as other cities because of its proximity to Wisconsin’s paper mills and other industrial users, but the resulting change does cost the city almost a half million dollars annually.

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Categories: City Hall, Environment

One thought on “City Hall: City Will Increase Recycling Pickups”

  1. David Coles says:

    Do we really believe Kroger is recycling these plastic bags they collect? I suspect they just trash them. There is zero market for recycling plastic film. Allowing customers to “recycle” their plastic bags keeps them happy, but is most likely just theater.

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