One Man’s Trash

A South Side alderman wants to bring composting to an alley near you.

Milwaukee Ald. Tony Zielinski, whose district covers much of Bay View, is no stranger to repurposing the unwanted. It was Zielinski who first proposed cheese brine as a substitute for road salt. That experiment proved successful, but after transportation costs ran too high, the city undertook a method to produce its own brine.

Now, the alderman is looking to pilot a curbside composting program in his South Side neighborhood.

In fact, he says, “it’s high time the city of Milwaukee gets started in the compost collection business.”

For those who still need an explanation, composting is the process by which organic materials are allowed to break down into a nutrient-rich material sought after by gardeners as a soil additive.

Items such as egg shells, fruit peels and even newspapers make great fodder for the compost pile or bin.

At the moment, Zielinski and the Department of Public Works are still hammering out the details of a possible pilot. Zielinski sees composting as “a logical extension of the recycling program,” and one that willing participants would pay $10 to join. (Full disclosure: The writer has expressed interest in taking part.) In return, the alderman hopes to deduct a buck from participants’ solid-waste fees, since many items would no longer end up in the trash heap.

Milwaukee would be following in the footsteps of cities such as Seattle, and San Francisco, both of which fund the curbside collection of organic waste. Closer to home, Madison and Fitchburg have also begun testing the waters.

Not to say that composting isn’t already occurring here. A number of local groups have sprung up, including Kompost Kids, an organization that Zielinski says may play a role in the pilot. A volunteer-driven nonprofit, Kompost Kids partners with events like the Bay View Bash to reduce waste, and it has also set up citywide community composting sites.

Compost Express, a private composting company, and the Growing Power organization offer classes on the process, and Keep Greater Milwaukee Beautiful has long sold bins.

“There’s no way this will not be a success,” Zielinski insists. “As the education gets out there, more people will participate. Years down the road, it will be as common as recycling.”

‘One Man’s Trash’ appears in the June 2015 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.
Purchase a copy on newsstands at one of 400+ locations throughout Wisconsin.

Be the first to get every new issue. Subscribe.



Former Managing Editor