The City of Milwaukee and Waukesha County are celebrating two years of collaboration at the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in the Menomonee Valley.
They cut the ribbon on the MRF, at 1401 W. Mt. Vernon Avenue, two years ago Wednesday.
The facility came about after years of discussion and negotiations. Both the City of Milwaukee and Waukesha County were in need of new recycling facilities, so the two sides opted to chip in for one rather than build on their own.
Milwaukee paid $9-million towards the MRF, while Waukesha County contributed $7-million. The larger, total volume of recycled materials sorted at the MRF makes for lower processing costs for both sides.
"We can get a better bang for our buck by working together," said Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow.
Recyclables brought to the facility are dumped into a large enclosure that sits on a concrete floor. After that, the items are transported via a conveyor belt through sets of screens, disks, magnets, and even optical scanners for the purposes of sorting them, and eliminating any objects that don't belong.
Workers also remove non-recyclable items by hand.
Each community pays its share of the processing costs through a per-ton fee. They also both receive revenue from recycled materials sold for re-use.
Rebecca Mattano, Waukesha County's Solid Waste Supervisor, said roughly 70-thousand tons of recycled material makes its way through the MRF each year.
Of that total, roughly 600 tons are aluminum, which can be sold for $1,000 per ton.
Mattano added the plastics collected, about 7 tons a year, net between $100 and $500 per ton when sold.
The more than 40-thousand tons of fiber collected, like paper and cardboard, sell for $50 to $200 per ton, she said.
"We're generating somewhere around $2-million a year," Mattano said. "Everybody coming together not only increases efficiency, but also helps us economically."
Both Milwaukee and Waukesha County reported an increase in recycling by residents since the MRF opened.
That translates to less money spent, by both communities, on dumping trash into landfills.
"We're taking something that would cost us money to throw into a landfill and not be usable anymore, and we're actually earning revenue off the sale of that material," said Analiese Smith, Recycling Assistant for the City of Milwaukee.
The MRF, which serves 27 municipalities in Waukesha County along with Milwaukee, employs more than 40 people.
Should recycling numbers continue to climb, its operations could be expanded by adding a second shift of workers, Smith said.
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