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Re: [greenyes] Milwaukee Wins Aluminum Can Recycling Contest


It¹s great that 50 volunteers collected 33,952 aluminum cans (exactly half a
ton) for recycling as part of Milwaukee¹s yearlong campaign to increase
recycling citywide. It sounds like the event was fun, and a positive life
lesson for the kids and their parents.

But there is another angle on this story: that the participants in the
Milwaukeee Cans for Cash contest have unwittingly become pawns in a much
larger game--one that employs token, PR-friendly programs as distractions so
that policymakers, consumers, and producers are kept from making real,
permanent changes in how recyclable products are collected, processed and
marketed in this country.

The U.S. aluminum can recycling rate has been declining for the past nine
years, hitting a 23-year low of 44% in 2003, when 55 billion cans (820,000
tons of aluminum) were trashed. This decline will not be reversed by
volunteers making long lines of cans and getting their pictures in the local
paper--or in the Guinness Book of World Records. Neither will any other
temporary, event-based, or volunteer-dependent program stem the tide of
trashed cans. It will only turn around if permanent, infrastructural changes
are implemented at many levels.

Unfortunately, we do not appear to be moving closer to achieving such
infrastructural changes as a nation. Despite a proven track record of
achieving recycling rates of 70% and above at no taxpayer cost in 10 states,
and enjoying strong public support, deposit bills remain stalled in
committees in scores of state legislatures due to the deep pockets and
influence of the beverage industry lobby. And growth in the one
infrastructural program the beverage industry touts as an "alternative" to
deposits--taxpayer-funded curbside recycling--is also stalled nationally
(there was a net decrease in the number of programs from 2001 to 2003,
according to BioCycle's State of Garbage 2004). And as everyone on this
listserve knows, local budget deficits will prevent the turnaround of that
trend for the forseeable future.

Industries who profit from the sale of these throwaway cans must begin to
pay for their end-of-life management as a matter of routine, not publicity.

-- Jenny

P.S. The answer to the reporter¹s question, "Tell us again, why is recycling
a good thing?" is not just to keep garbage out of landfills. There are
overwhelming social and environmental reasons to promote recycling,
including reducing energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and
pollution that results from manufacturing new aluminum cans from virgin

On 11/16/04 11:59 AM, Reindl, John at Reindl@no.address wrote:

> 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
> recycling!
> 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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Jennifer Gitlitz
Research Director, Container Recycling Institute

Home Office:
2 Pomeroy Ave.
Dalton, MA 01226
Tel. (413) 684-4746
Mobile: (413) 822-0115
Fax: (413) 403-0233
Email: jgitlitz@no.address

Please note the new address for CRI¹s main office:
Container Recycling Institute
1601 North Kent St., Suite 803
Arlington, VA 22209-2105
Tel. (703) 276-9800
Fax: (703) 276-9587

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