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[greenyes] Milwaukee Wins Aluminum Can Recycling Contest

Congratulations to Mary Bengsch and the City of Milwaukee for winning an
aluminum can recycling contest and finding a fun way to educate people on

John Reindl
Dane County, WI

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Mary Bengsch 'Takes Five'
Recycling feat shows city's can-do attitude
Posted: Nov. 13, 2004

Move over, students from Aurora Private School in Randburg, South Africa.
Milwaukee's the king of the can hill now. In a cavernous city garage on
Milwaukee's northwest side Saturday, more than 50 volunteers helped to place
33,952 aluminum cans in a meandering line about a mile and a third long. In
the end, they bested the Aurora students' 2003 record by 6,574 cans, a feat
they hope will earn them a spot in "Guinness World Records." The event was
part of the City of Milwaukee's Cash for Cans Challenge. City recycling
manager Mary Bengsch, who coordinated the event, talked with Journal
Sentinel reporter Annysa Johnson.

Q. So, somewhere in South Africa, dozens of schoolchildren have now been
cast into obscurity. Was this some egomaniacal quest for world dominance and
Guinness fame, or was there a higher purpose in this?

A. The big picture, aside from the contest, is to increase recycling
awareness. And we just thought this would be a fun way to do that.

Q. What contest?

A. This was part of a contest by the U.S. Conference of Mayors nationwide to
see how many aluminum cans cities can collect in a two-week period. The
other part was to see how creatively you can do that. The contest runs
November 2 to November 15. . . . But this is actually the beginning of a
yearlong campaign that Milwaukee is going to be engaged in to increase
recycling in the city.

Q. Recycling has been required by state law for nearly a decade. Aren't we
doing enough?

A. Milwaukee has had a recycling program since 1989, before it became
mandatory. But quite honestly, over the years, people have gotten a little
lackadaisical. The city will make a concerted effort over the next year to
try to rekindle those old habits.

Q. How?

A. We'll be doing a lot of education and outreach. If we're successful in
this Cash for Cans Challenge, we'll be eligible for up to $10,000. And we'd
definitely use that money to offer more tours of recycling centers for kids
and outreach with the schools. The people we think we can affect most - can
instill good recycling habits in - are the children. If we can teach the
kids the importance of recycling, they will take it home and share it with
their families.

Q. On the off chance that there is someone, somewhere, still left who
doesn't know this: Tell us again, why is recycling a good thing?

A. I have seen some of the landfills, and it's mind-boggling that we
generate as much waste as we do. When I give presentations to schoolchildren
I try to stress that the less garbage we make, the more land there is
available for them to make their homes, to enjoy.

Also, the city has a new recycling contract with a company called Recycle
America Alliance, in which we split the revenues with them. They do the
processing for us - aluminum cans, cardboard, whatever. They market it, and
whatever they sell, the city gets half. So the more you recycle, the more
money the city makes, which can offset your taxes.

Story available on-line at

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