Spouting rubbish

Dallas has run out of recycling excuses

Cooper told me that in 1990 the Wisconsin Legislature passed a law banning, by the year 1995, the disposal of the following items in the state's landfills: household appliances, car batteries, motor oil, leaves, grass clippings and small brush, aluminum and tin cans, bottles, newspapers, magazines, paper goods, and Nos. 1 and 2 plastic.

As a result oCR>f the law, every single city, town, village, and county in the state now has a state-certified recycling program--which, for 60 percent of the state, means full-service curbside service. The state provides grant money to the municipalities that need it--this past year, $30 million was parceled out statewide. And where does the money come from? A statewide tax on business income that will cease--along with the grants--in the year 1999. (Another $8 million in grants went to businesses to encourage them to develop products made out of recycled materials.)

And how burdensome was all this to all those cities and towns that were forced to create recycling programs? Cooper says that the city of Madison is making money--it no longer relies on any state subsidy; it's got money to spare after expenses.

Wisconsin is a long way from Texas--in a lot more ways than miles. Kate Cooper picked up her telephone last Wednesday, the start of a long holiday weekend, thinking it was her husband on the phone--not a newspaper reporter from a distant state whom she didn't have to talk to or deal with ever again. Still, she stayed on the phone for almost an hour, excitedly talking about her state's efforts, spouting facts and figures off the top of her head.

"I wish you well down there in Texas," she said as she hung up. She then spent an additional 20 minutes putting together a packet of materials for me and faxing it. And what if I had a question about that material? "If you need to get in touch with me over Thanksgiving, I'll give you my home number."

And, incredibly, she did--proving, without a doubt, that she was a million miles away from the apple-peelers at Dallas City Hall.

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