Greening Greater Racine

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Zero Waste Initiative

What is the Zero Waste Initiative?


The purpose of this movement has been to lower waste to landfill and to increase means to refuse, reduce, recycle. Zero Waste began as an interested group under GGR. In 2016, meetings took place at Racine City Hall convened by the city administrator. In 2017, GGR collaborated with Visioning a Greater Racine to continue the work, although there was a period in 2018 when the movement went on a hiatus. In 2019, GGR took over and established the GRZWI. In 2019, group led a successful movement for the City of Racine to pass a Zero Waste Resolution.

What has the Zero Waste Initiative been up to?

In recent years meeting virtually, the group established a Facebook Group and wrote a Recycling Guide for greater Racine. In 2022, they produced a new Zero Waste brochure for distribution.  

You can view your copy here!

The Zero Waste committee is facilitated by Greening Greater Racine and the Eco-WAVE Team of Visioning a Greater Racine.

A team from Leadership Racine is helping the Zero Waste Initiative! Click on the photo to be directed to their Facebook page.

To join the Zero Waste Committee, email us at [email protected] or find our Facebook group!

Scroll down to see information about the movement, their purpose and projects.

The “Greater Racine Area Zero Waste Initiative” endorses and supports the following implementation measures

1.)  Reduce the use of plastic bags and other containers in local grocery stores and promote environmentally responsible alternatives.
2.)  Reduce or eliminate the use of expanded polystyrene (styrofoam) and promote environmentally responsible containers for leftovers at restaurants and take-out places.
3.)  Reduce food waste and increase recycling in school cafeterias through the Green Cafeteria Initiative.
4.)  Develop a community-wide campaign to encourage the use of municipal recycling services, cloth shopping bags, home containers for food carry-outs, kitchen sink disposals, composting, Earth-friendly shopping, and to avoid products like plastic water bottles.
5.) Promote the website.
6.) Develop a proposal for a Recycling Co-operative for businesses in greater Racine, including considering allowing and zoning for possible building and/or site use by local company.
7.) Develop new policies and regulations for reducing solid waste.
8.) Require community groups holding street fairs and public events to provide for recycling.
9.) Hold an annual “Racine Recycles Day” for many items—electronics, clothes, keys, shoes, etc. plus paper shredding service.
10.) Pursue a high percentage of materials recovery from local demolition work.
11.) Convene representatives of the City, County, and participating municipalities, through the “Resilient Communities Project” to develop a cooperative Solid Waste Reduction and Comprehensive Management Plan.

Potential Leadership Initiatives by the City

The hope is that, with the passing of the Zero Waste resolution, the city will work to develop programs, projects, and promotions to carry out the provisions of the resolution. The Zero Waste Committee will support and collaborate in these efforts. Here are some possible ways in which the city might carry out this resolution.New policies:  that give financial relief to residents discarding less trash and higher fees for those who discard more trash. Many cities have “Pay as you Throw” policies to emulate. City Administrator and Public Works will propose these policies for next budget cycle. Cost of setting this up can possibly be recouped from fees and fewer trips to the landfill.

  • Metrics for solid waste. Provide ways to set a baseline and measure periodically the waste steam to determine outcomes and impacts. 
  • Public-private partnerships with new recycling industries. For example, 7 Rivers Mattress Recycling company in LaCrosse wants to establish a branch in Racine. This business would provide several new jobs for Racine residents. 
  • Provide recycling for public events and parks. Could also require this of all public events sponsored by civic groups. 
  • Hazardous waste: Continue hazardous waste drop-off events and sites for toxic materials and medicines. 
  • Model waste reduction. At all city buildings, city offices, and city-sponsored events. Plus education of employees and staff. Minimal cost. 
  • Cooperate with and give support to community programs. For example, Public Works will be partnering with Goodwill Industries for their annual or biennial “Racine Recycles Day” for recycling of electronics and other items. 
  • Cooperation with other municipalities. Give leadership in convening other municipalities east of the interstate along with Racine County as part of the “Resilient Communities” program in order to work toward common policies and practices, especially for solid waste management. Such cooperation could also lead to a common composting site for yard waste and food waste to be turned into organic fertilizer. This project may result in new jobs. 
  • Community engagement. Provide ongoing participation in the Zero Waste committee. Collaborate with the Zero Waste committee and civic organizations to procure grants and funding for Zero Waste initiatives.

Sturtevant ​Food Compost Pilot Program


1. Plastic bags: Reduce single use plastic bags: local grocery stores and retailers with recommendation to lower use and adopt Earth-Friendly alternatives. Urge residents to bring their own reusable bags. Dottie-Kay Bowersox.
2. Food containers: Reduce or eliminate the use of Styrofoam and promote earth-friendly containers for leftovers at restaurants and take-out places. Urge residents to bring their own reusable containers. Anita Miller.
3. Green school cafeterias: Reduce food waste and increase recycling in school cafeterias through the Green Cafeteria Initiative. Promote recycling through the buildings. Shannon Gordon. Dave Rhoads.
4. Disposers and Composting. Encourage use of kitchen garbage disposers. Michael Keleman. Composting for food. Rose Woodfuff and Linda Busha. Develop local composting site for greater Racine. Jim Palenick.
5. Watershed Responsibility. Support and promote “Respect our Waters” and other initiatives that keep waste out of the watershed. Nan Calvert.
6. Recycling Cooperative. Develop a proposal for a Recycling Co-operative for manufacturing companies in greater Racine. Consider recycling building offered by local company. Damon Hassell. Jim Palenick. Begin by doing a survey of waste management with selected businesses and their openness to a Recycling Cooperative. Racine Sustainable Business Network.
7. Racine Recycles Day. Coordinate an annual “Racine Recycles Day” for many items—electronics, clothes, keys, shoes, etc. plus paper shredding service. Serves to promote community identity. Randy Olson. Tom Eeg.
8. Materials Recovery. High percentage of materials recovery from local demolition work. Mike Lechner. Thom Bowen.
9. Education and Awareness: Develop a community-wide campaign to encourage the use of municipal recycling services, cloth shopping bags, home containers for food carry-outs, kitchen sink disposals, composting, earth-Friendly shopping, and to avoid products like plastic water bottles. Zero Waste Committee. Explore working with Neighborhood Watch to Foster increase use of recycling services and promotion of best practices among residents. Develop and promote the website. Christine Wasielewski.
10. “Pay as you throw” policies. Develop new policies and regulations for solid waste for the 2020 budget. Jim Palenick.  Proposal for community groups holding street fairs and public events to provide for recycling. Cara Pratt, Olympia Brown Unitarian Universalist Church.
11. Cooperate and Coordinate. Convene representatives of the city, county, municipalities, perhaps through the “Resilient Communities Project” or on the model of Fox Valley Sustainability Network, to adopt Zero Waste Resolution and to develop a cooperative zero waste plan. Jim Palenick, Ron Pritzaff.

Sturtevant Beautification Committee Makes a Change! 

​In January 2019 the Sturtevant Beautification Committee and the Village of Sturtevant began a Food Compost Pilot Program in partnership with Visioning a Greater Racine Environmental Wave Team and Compost Crusaders in an effort to keep material out of the landfill.

Click HERE for more info!

Mattresses are Recyclable

Click HERE for some helpful tips and guidelines on mattress recycling from our experts at 7RiversRecycling.

Journal Times: Racine could become first Wisconsin city with a Zero Waste Initiative

Learn how the Zero Waste committee is defining zero waste primarily by:
  • Making use of reusable products, i.e., refillable water bottles or tote grocery bags.
  • Composting food waste, since food comprises at least 20% of American landfills, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Recycling whatever is left, and still doing that sparingly.
Read the full article by clicking HERE.

WGTD The Morning Show

​Nan Calvert’s monthly environmental program:  Her guests are Sister Janet Weyker (Eco-Justice Center and Greening Greater Racine) and Michael Keleman (Environmental Engineering Manager for Insinkerator) talking about Racine’s Zero Waste Initiative. ​Listen to the interview by clicking HERE.

CBS 58: ​Landfill in Racine County nearing capacity, could cost taxpayers

CBS 58 picked up the story which led to the interview of Jim Palenick and Michael Keleman June 2019. Check out the interview video by clicking HERE.

Journal Times: ​Area group’s goal is zero waste; working to prolong landfill’s usable life

“Garbage is a stinky subject to talk about. But when it comes to finding a place for Racine County residents to bring their trash, that issue cannot be put off any longer. The Kestrel Hawk Landfill in Racine is starting to near the end of its life. It’s estimated to have five years left.” Read more by clicking HERE.

Journal Times: Racine could become first Wisconsin city with a Zero Waste Initiative

“One of the Zero Waste Initiative’s literature pieces, about the zero-waste-office concept, lists the “Five Rs lifecycle: refuse; reduce; reuse; recycle; and rot.” Read more on the article and how restaurants are involved by clicking HERE.

​Call for Action by Mike Keleman, InSinkErator

Like many other communities, the municipalities and businesses of greater Racine will soon face the challenge of how to manage their solid waste. The Kestrel Hawk landfill, where residential and commercial garbage generated by Caledonia, Mount Pleasant, Sturtevant and Racine is disposed, will likely close in the next five years. Republic Services, who manages the landfill, reports they are operating the last remaining cell at Kestrel Hawk, leaving local officials the challenge of where to send their garbage, potentially including the option of finding a site for a new landfill.

Racine Public Works Director, Mark Yehlen, reports the process to find a new landfill will not occur until the Kestrel Hawk only has three years of remaining capacity. However, this challenge will involve not only finding a suitable site, which will most certainly face local reaction from adjacent property owners, but also a lengthy process of acquiring permits, as well as designing and building the site. Utilizing other existing landfills in southeast Wisconsin is another option, but this will certainly involve higher costs for managing solid waste simply based on additional transportation. Whether garbage from greater Racine goes to a new site or an existing landfill, when Kestrel Hawk finally closes, residents and businesses will most certainly pay higher solid waste management costs. Unfortunately, current costs are relatively inexpensive, and most people are unaware of the pending consequences of the Kestrel Hawk closure.

To address the pending solid waste crisis and help bring awareness of the issue to the greater Racine community, over the past two years several individuals initiated a “Zero Waste” campaign. Over the past decade or so, other communities across the U.S.A., such as New York City, Austin, and San Francisco, have adopted zero waste master plans to reduce waste going to landfills – if not just to reduce pressure on landfills, but to improve recycling and resource recovery, as well to promote their communities as sustainable.

Individuals from several groups are involved with “Zero Waste Racine,” including officials from within the City of Racine, such as City Administrator Jim Palenick and Public Works Director Mark Yehlen. David Rhoads from Greening a Greater Racine and the Racine Sustainable Business Network is taking the lead for this initiative on behalf of Visioning a Greater Racine.

Please recognize this announcement as a Call to Action for Zero Waste in greater Racine! Attend our monthly meetings and get involved by joining the group as we begin development of a Zero Waste Master Plan.

To download the document, click HERE.

Your Food Scraps as Renewable Energy

Using your garbage disposal to grind food scraps can turn them into renewable energy. It’s a sustainable way to positively impact your community. Click HERE to check out a video on InSinkErator’s video and more!

Spoiler alert: Using your garbage disposal is way better than throwing food scraps in the trash.

Journal Times: Racine could become first Wisconsin city with a Zero Waste Initiative

Some of our committee members were able to volunteer their time at the annual EcoFest at Gateway Technical College. Please consider joining to help Racine get to ZERO waste! Contact us for any questions and information on upcoming monthly meetings at [email protected]

Brewers pitcher starts team campaign to end plastic water bottles

​Brent Suter has been passing out reusable water bottles to his teammates in favor of plastic bottles. His campaign on social media is called #Strikeoutwaste and is based on Suter’s Twitter page. We hope Suter and the Milwaukee Brewers are able to help the Zero Waste team in Racine! Go Brewers! For the full article, click HERE.

E-Cycle for FREE with Goodwill

Goodwill Industries takes any and all of your electronic products FREE of charge! “Goodwill E-Cycle is an electronics recycling and refurbishment operation. Goodwill E-Cycle is able to recover valuable materials and reuse resources instead of putting them in a landfill.” ​For more information, take a look at Goodwill’s website by clicking HERE.