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Wisconsin recycling studies and reports
Since Wisconsin's recycling law took effect in the mid-1990s, the DNR has used annual reports and surveys to monitor the progress and success of Wisconsin's recycling efforts. These reports and surveys come from local government "responsible unit" recycling programs, material recovery facilities and landfill operators as well as from residential households.
Annual recycling and landfill reports
Annual reports from responsible units and material recovery facilities
Responsible units must submit annual reports to the DNR. These reports must include the amount of recyclable paper and containers collected from one to four family residences. Some Responsible Units may also report on additional recyclables (e.g., carpeting, used oil, etc.). Materials recovery facilities that accept recyclables from responsible units must also submit annual reports to the DNR.
The aggregate data in the following tables, charts and graphs reflect annual report information since 2005. The materials recovery facility data contains both residential and commercial sources of recyclables. A breakdown of these data is available upon request.
- Table of all recyclable materials collected by Wisconsin Responsible Units (2005-2014)
- Chart of all recyclable materials collected by Wisconsin Responsible Units (2005-2014)
- Graph of Table 1 recyclable materials collected by Wisconsin Responsible Units (2005-2014)
- Chart of Table 1 recyclable materials collected by Wisconsin MRFs (2008-2014)
- Chart of Table 1 recyclable materials collected by Wisconsin Responsible Units (2008-2014)
Other data: economic and environmental
Recycling in Wisconsin has both economic as well as environmental benefits. The market values of the materials diverted from landfills in 2013 annual reports are shown in the Market Value Table below. The other link shows the amount of greenhouse gases reduced by recycling materials rather than landfilling in 2014.
- Table of market value of recycled materials collected (2013)
- Tables of greenhouse gas emission reductions and emission equivalencies (2014)
Annual reports from landfill operators
Landfill operators must submit an annual report to the DNR that includes categories of waste received from Wisconsin and out-of state sources. In the tables below, municipal solid waste is the waste generated by residences and commercial establishments. All other waste is considered non-municipal solid waste and is generated primarily by industries.
Other studies and reports
Report on newspaper recycling fee law
In 2014, the DNR commissioned a study of Wisconsin’s newspaper recycling fee law, s. 287.31, Wis. Stats. The 1989 law established minimum recycled content for Wisconsin newspaper publishers and imposed a fee for publishers not meeting the minimum content. The study was intended to evaluate the continued relevance of the law in light of newspaper and recycling industry trends in the 25 years since the law was passed. In April 2015, 2015 Act 7 took effect and repealed the newspaper recycling fee and associated requirements in s. 287.31, Wis. Stats.
Wisconsin plastics recycling study results
The DNR commissioned a study, authored jointly by Foth Infrastructure and Environment and by Moore Recycling Associates, to identify actions that can be taken to capture and recycle more of the valuable used plastics that currently end up in landfills. Recovering more of these materials has the potential to create jobs and boost economic development in Wisconsin. Despite a comprehensive statewide recycling program and a strong recycling ethic, hundreds of tons of plastics are still sent to Wisconsin landfills every day; Foth estimates the market value of these landfilled plastics at around $64 million in 2009.
The study lists several actions Wisconsin could take to substantially increase plastics recovery rates. These actions could be implemented individually or as a coordinated approach with priority given to recovery of the most valuable and commonly used plastic containers, such as consumer beverage bottles and containers for household cleaning products.
- Wisconsin Plastics Recycling Study Executive Summary
- Wisconsin Plastics Recycling Study Report
- Wisconsin Plastics Recycling Study Appendix
Household recycling survey results
The DNR conducts periodic household surveys to assess awareness of and participation in Wisconsin's recycling program. Results for the most recent survey, conducted in 2011, of 667 households across the state confirmed continued strong support for both the state recycling laws and programs. More than 95 percent of households surveyed are committed to recycling at home, and 85 percent support state laws governing recycling.
According to the survey results, residents recycle because it protects the environment and preserves landfill space (97 percent), reuses materials (98 percent) and reduces pollution (95 percent). More than 90 percent are aware that recycling helps the economy by creating jobs and providing new or expanded business opportunities.
- Summary report of the 2011 household survey
- Breakdown of the 2011 household survey data
- Summary report of the 2006 household survey
Waste composition and characterization studies
The DNR periodically contracts for studies to assess the status of recycling in Wisconsin.
Most recently, the DNR contracted for a statewide waste composition study in 2009. This study was performed by MidAtlantic Solid Waste Consultants, LLC, under contract to Recycling Connections Corporation based out of Stevens Point. The results of this study, combined with 2009 recycled tonnage reports from responsible units and materials recovery facilities, suggest Wisconsin residents and businesses maintain a strong commitment to recycling, with progress in reducing the landfilled tonnages of some materials. The study shows opportunities still exist to improve recycling rates for other materials.
Prior waste characterization studies are available upon request.
Studies by the UW-Extension Solid and Hazardous Waste Education Center
The following studies were conducted by the UW-Extension Solid and Hazardous Waste Center and are posted here with permission.
- Cost of Providing Solid Waste and Recycling Services: 2013 Survey Results
- Leaf and Yart Material Collection Practices in Wisconsin
- Research Review of Best Practices in Campaigns to Promote Recycling
- Results from 2012 Survey of Wisconsin Compost Facilities
- Summary of Results from 2013 Household Hazardous Waste Survey
Legislative Fiscal Bureau informational paper
- Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau Informational Paper #70: Solid Waste Recycling and Waste Reduction
Governor's Task Force on Waste Materials Recovery and Disposal
In 2006, the Governor's Task Force on Waste Materials Recovery and Disposal completed an 18-month process with a final report and recommendations for changes to Wisconsin's waste management system.