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Brookfield, Elm Grove consider recycling changes

Dec. 23, 2013

With Waukesha County planning to accept unsorted recyclables in 2015, municipalities have to decide how to adapt their recycling programs.

County officials hope by allowing households to throw all their recyclable materials together, the recycling program will collect at least 25 percent more, which would bring in more revenue. Those materials would then be sorted by the county, as is now done in Milwaukee and many other communities.

"We're a little behind on the whole trend," Waukesha County Solid Waste Supervisor Rebecca Mattano said. "It's the way the industry's going."

The change could involve larger containers to hold more recyclables, as well as curbside service rather than the up-the-drive service Brookfield and Elm Grove currently have. It also would convert the county's recycling facility to a transfer station and move some jobs to another facility.

Members of the Elm Grove Public Works Committee were ambivalent about potential changes. On one hand, switching to curbside pickup could make the recycling hauler contract 10 percent cheaper, a savings of about $30 per household.

But members Andy Gutierrez and Trustee George Haas said they are worried about elderly neighbors trying to walk their containers to the curb every other week.

Village Manager Dave De Angelis stressed there would be plenty of room for community input, possibly through a survey, before any decisions are made.

"I look at this as a start to the conversation," De Angelis said.

The village Public Works Committee voted Dec. 16 to participate in a county bidding process to see which haulers can do the job for the best price at various levels of service. The village will not be obligated to go with the county's pick.

Brookfield officials have not decided yet whether to participate in that process, although Mayor Steve Ponto said he expected they would decide to at the Common Council's Jan. 14 meeting.

"I think it makes sense for us to be part of the bidding process," he said. "But we want to get input from the community before we make changes. It's something that touches all of their lives."

Mattano said she hopes municipalities will get hauling contracts in order before August, and order new containers as soon as September, to prepare for the county to start processing single-sorted recyclables in January, 2015. The facility where this will occur has yet to be determined, but the effort is planned to be in cooperation with Milwaukee County.

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