A nonpartisan review of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources statewide recycling programs has found financial discrepancies and assorted review-related shortfalls.  It also shed light on a program that is having budgetary problems directly-related to a diminished demand on recyclable materials.

One of the issues was on the expense-side of the ledger.  According to new sources, the review found that the agency "spent money appropriated for recycling administration on other related programs". To be fair, it appears that the funds weren't used maliciously.

At issue is the more than $807,000 that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources spent on a program to promote beneficial reuse of industrial byproducts - such as coal and ash, foundry sand, and paper mill sludge instead of recycling administration - which it was line-itemed to in the budget.  Brad Wolbert, Program Director for the Bureau of Water and Materials Management shared:

"It's not like we went out and bought boats.  These were recycling expenses, and they were broadly in keeping with the intent of the law.  The spirit of the law was met if the letter was not."

To placate investigators, the agency said that they would find a different source of funding for the reuse program.

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Another issue that the legislative survey turned up was the lack of reviews at of local recycling programs.  The law mandates that "at least 5% of state-funded programs" get reviewed each year to ensure compliance.  That mandate would average about 50 reviews each year; records show that only one review was done in 2016 and both 2017 and 2018 weren't at capacity, either.

Perhaps a bigger issue that was turned up by the recent legislative review is the expense to revenue shortfall that is plaguing the statewide recycling program.  This issue is a result of market elements and not something that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has done wrong.  Speaking generally, costs continue to rise significantly while both volumes and prices for recyclable materials has fallen off.  Examples shared by sources show that carboard prices fell from $137 a ton in 2017 to just $38 a ton in 2018.  Additionally, recyclers are now paying $2 a ton to get rid of mixed paper recyclables that used to net them $62 a ton - meaning that the agencies are now paying to get rid of something that used to generate a considerate amount of money.


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