Report highlights Milwaukee’s opportunity to create hundreds of good jobs in the Waste and Recycling Industry

On Wednesday, leaders from community, faith, and labor organizations held a media call to discuss a new report, ‘Transforming Trash in Urban America’.  The report which analyzes the recycling programs of Milwaukee and 37 other cities found that a proactive, forward thinking approach to waste management bycities will lead to more good jobs and a cleaner environment.

The report, was co-released by the Partnership for Working Families and Citizen Action of Wisconsin.  “The Transforming Trash report demonstrates that creating jobs and slowing climate change through a new approach to waste management is both possible and urgent for rust-belt cities like Milwaukee,” said Sabrina Owens- Wilson, senior researcher for the Partnership for Working Families.

The report release is particularly timely as the City of Milwaukee and Waukesha County are preparing to release a Request For Proposals (RFP) to operate a new joint Materials Recovery Facility (MRF).

“The ‘Transforming Trash’ report finds Milwaukee has a historic opportunity to move toward a zero-waste future while developing a new recycling-reliant sector of our economy that creates much needed middle class jobs,” said Pam Fendt, Research Manager – Great Lakes Region Organizing Committee of the Laborers’ Union in Wisconsin & City of Milwaukee Green Team Member.

Call participants focused mainly on the report’s explanation of the job creation potential presented by the development of a joint City of Milwaukee / Waukesha County Materials Recovery Facility (MRF).

“There is a job crisis in Milwaukee. Everyone knows about it, but there are few economic development policies that are to the scale needed to address the good jobs crisis in our community,” said Damon Dorsey, board president of the Milwaukee Regional Economic Partnership, a group of African American economic development practitioners. “The design of the Materials Recovery Facility is critical to the creation of good jobs. This coalition has been working proactively with the city to ensure that the MRF becomes a catalytic project cable of spurring ancillary development in a resource recovery park,” continued Dorsey.

At issue in the ‘Transforming Trash’ report is the notion that cities must fundamentally transform the way they view economic development and public investment in waste management.

“The Transforming Trash report lays out a clear path forward for the development of the Milwaukee/ Waukesha Materials Recovery Facility,” said Mike Wilder, director of the African American Roundtable.  “Careful and collaborative planning could be the deciding factor between the creation of hundreds of good jobs, or a continuation of policies that use public money to pay poverty wages to city residents,” continued Wilder.

Call participants finished by calling on the City of Milwaukee to use its economic power to turn bad jobs into good jobs, create new employment, decrease pollution, and lower costs.

“The Transforming Trash report refutes the notion that requiring fair pay and safety standards for workers is too costly for Milwaukee,” said Jennifer Epps-Addison, Economic Justice director for Citizen Action of WI.  “Some may claim that living wages and community accountability is a pie in the sky goal, but as the report indicates, it is already happening in cities across the county.  For example, Seattle requires that everyone from haulers to processing contractors, like the folks who would be employed at the new City of Milwaukee / Waukesha County Materials Recovery Facility, be paid a living wage of with health care benefits.  These requirements have created more than 1,000 family sustaining jobs for Seattle residents, while becoming a critical revenue stream for the city,” continued Epps-Addison.

“Our coalition wants to make clear that the community is paying attention to how public resources are used, now more than ever.  We look forward to working with the city on the development of the new MRF, but more than anything we are excited to be the driving force behind making Milwaukee a national leader in transforming dangerous, poverty wage jobs, into good family supporting careers,” finished Epps-Addison.

Read the full report at