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'Browning' of recycling requires more frequent pick-ups

Posted at 12:23 PM, Jun 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-07 23:26:46-04

The stuff we recycle has changed over the years.

So, the city of Milwaukee is trying to keep up with the times by picking up recycling more often.

Starting June 1, city crews will empty recycling bins every other week, from spring to fall.

Rick Meyers is the city's sanitation services manager.

He sees the change in recycling -- by color.

It's getting browner.

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Brown being the color of all those Amazon boxes that pile up outside our doors.

"A lot of things have changed," Meyers said. "The Amazon effect as we call it, the browning of the materials because of all the home deliveries."

Because of all that cardboard, our recycling bins fill up a lot faster than they used to.

Partially because Americans are pretty good at keeping all that packaging out of the trash.

According to the EPA, only 6 percent of our trash was recycled in 1960.

By 1980, it was 10 percent.

But by 2017, 35 percent of our waste avoided the landfill thanks to recycling.

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Over the years, Milwaukee's recycling program grew from once a month to every three weeks.

By moving to every other week from spring through the fall, Meyers says the average person will have less of a pile in their garage in-between pickups.

"This is what people were experiencing. Their carts were full. The weights weren't necessarily showing because of the decline in newsprint, but the carts were filling up," he said.

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