Recently I had a chance to learn about the of the missing Solid Waste Tax dollars, and the more I learned about this, the more it seemed to really get to the heart of what’s going on with recycling in Minnesota. It’s clear; once you start looking into the details of how Minnesota actually pays for our recycling programs you can see the missing Solid Waste Tax dollars become incredibly important.
First, some background. In 1989, the Legislature created a reliable source of funding for recycling programs based on the recommendations of the Select Committee on Recycling and the Environment (SCORE). SCORE is funded by the Solid Waste Tax, which is a state tax on garbage picked up throughout the state – both from residential and commercial properties. As a result, the Solid Waste Tax is now generating around 70 million dollars in revenue every year. This money was intended to pay for recycling in the form of SCORE grants to every county based on population as well support landfills and other solid waste needs. But instead, over 22 million dollars a year is diverted to the State’s General Fund where it can be used to pay for anything – not even related to solid waste disposal and recycling programs.
This diversion of 22 million dollars from Solid Waste Tax dollars has a big impact on our state’s recycling programs.
Unfortunately, this industry is hampered by these missing Solid Waste Tax dollars, and the effects are pretty bad. For example, the Legislative Auditor recently found that overall recycling rates have gone up from 40.6% in 2004 to 46.9% in 2013. This is an improvement of course, but it’s still much lower than what we as a State need to achieve. Indeed every year in our state, one million tons of recyclable materials worth $217 million are sent to landfills!
Fortunately there’s an easy fix. The legislature could pass House File 1477 and Senate File 1132 which would ensure that those missing Solid Waste Tax dollars go back to being spent on recycling instead of being diverted to the general fund. This would help local governments provide better recycling services all over the state while also helping to create more jobs in an important industry.
Recycling is an important way to reduce waste, energy use, and pollution created by landfills, it is also a major industry and it provides over 27,000 jobs in the State of Minnesota. It’s important that we do our part to support these funds and ensure the diverted dollars are restored.