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'Wish-cycling' costing Milwaukee taypayers $400,000

Plastic Bags
Posted at 10:49 PM, May 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-15 23:56:03-04

MILWAUKEE — Plastic bags are clogging up the recycling process in Milwaukee and damaging equipment. It's costing taxpayers almost a half a million dollars.

If you ask people around Milwaukee, some are confused if they can even recycle plastic bags. And even more think if they can, the bags can go in their curbside bins.

"I'm guilty," said Ivory Taylor. "I would have put these in the recycling bin."

But the reality is Milwaukee cannot accept bags in the regular recycling. They need to be brought to the local grocery stores, such as Metro Market and Pick 'N Save or the stores like Kohls and Target that have bag recycling.

"There is even a phrase for people who throw their plastic bags in their recycling bin, 'wish-cycling'. You wish it was recyclable. You don't want to put that in the landfill," said Alderman Nik Kovac.

Kovak said the city will have to fork over half a million dollars to pay for the mess the bags are creating in the recycling process.

"It is costing an additional $400,000 a year in our recycling management contract," said Kovac. "Those plastic bags from the grocery store really gum up the machine, take up a lot their time so it's costing them more to sort our own recycling."

Some aldermen say instead of paying more, the city should stop their use, or at least charge stores that use them an added fee. But they cannot do that either because it's against the law in Wisconsin.

"They put a ban on bans. So even if we wanted to begin discouraging the use of these plastic bags through a fee structure, the State of Wisconsin will not allow us to do it," said Kovac.

There is a bill to rescind the ban on bans. But it does not have bipartisan support.

Milwaukee's Common Council still needs to approve the added $400,000 to the recycling contract. It was approved and passed out of the public works committee Wednesday morning.