WW: Why did the Western Wisconsin Recycling Association decide to hire a full- time employee?
JH: The association is expanding in its size and services. To spur growth and increase the association's effectiveness, the board determined that a full-time staff person was necessary. The association was awarded a grant by the Wisconsin Department of Development to sponsor this position.
WW: What are your goals as director of the association?
JH: The primary goals of the association are to increase membership and the use of marketing programs, develop a better transportation network, define new and better markets for recyclables and become self-sufficient. Personally, I want to promote awareness and understanding of the association, recycling and cooperatives through an enhanced education effort including a newsletter, training sessions, workshops and presentations to government officials, civic groups and waste haulers.
WW: What are your plans for expanding markets for recyclables?
JH: Right now, we are working with the Wisconsin Department of Development and the Department of Natural Resources to support any new businesses interested in the recycling industry. For example, we helped a new business secure a grant to recycle plastics by facilitating interaction on both sides. We also are working with the Department of Transportation to use the glass that is collected throughout the region in road construction; holding workshops on market development as part of local economic development; and undertaking a feasibility study of polystyrene recycling. We are out there covering all different angles of expanding markets.
WW: What are the major obstacles facing the recycling industry?
JH: There are several challenges facing the industry. The one that affects us the most is legislation that only addresses one side of the recycling equation. For example, legislation in Wisconsin bans certain items from landfill disposal, which increases the supply of recyclables but does nothing to spur the demand for those materials, which leads to market imbalances. If they are going to ban materials, they have to invest money in order to expand markets. Another obstacle for most areas is financing of recycling programs. I think solid waste professionals and legislatures need to carefully examine the cost of recycling vs. disposal and find a way to finance both.
WW: How do you see the recycling system in western Wisconsin developing over the next five years?
JH: I foresee more businesses and governments becoming comfortable with the idea of cooperative marketing and really beginning to use the association to become a market force. Cooperative marketing will give buyers a stable, consistent supply of products, and it will give us better prices because the buyer knows that a certain amount of material will be supplied over a given time. The association's members know that cooperatives are a good idea but they are not very comfortable with it. It's a new idea, and they have not really seen it in operation yet. Participation in cooperatives will be essential to the survival of rural suppliers because it will make it possible for them to compete with large haulers.