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Milwaukee DPW: 15 percent of what is recycled is actually trash

Posted at 6:59 AM, Mar 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-05 08:37:00-05

MILWAUKEE -- If you think you are good at recycling because you put just about everything in the blue bin, think again!

TODAY'S TMJ4 was given exclusive access inside the Milwaukee Department of Public Works recycling plant to show your tax dollars at work.

Rick Meyers, sanitation services manager of Milwaukee DPW tells us they recycle about 300 tons of material each day. About 15 percent of what they get a day is shipped to the landfill. Not sorting it out ahead of time costs you the taxpayers, extra dollars.

Meyers has seen someone try to recycle just about everything you could think of, including small propane tanks.

"We've had explosions before. We can have fires from that," warned Meyers, adding, "The craziest thing we had was a goat head."

Workers screen what you recycle. Their first line of defense is to pull anything that could damage their machines.

The most common problem are plastic bags. They can not be recycled here. Instead, you should return them to the store you got them from.

This is because the plastic bags get stuck in the sorting equipment. This alone causes the machines to shut down about three times a day, according to Meyers. Your tax dollars are at work as roughly 40 workers wait for it to be safe to start again.

Meyers explains, it's still worth it, "For every ton that comes into this facility instead of the landfill, we are avoiding $40-50 of landfill cost plus a revenue share that helps offset the cost peoples fees and taxes."

Remember not to "wish-cycle" your items. You can find Milwaukee's recycling guidelines by clicking here.