State budget cuts are forcing dramatic downsizing at one of the nation's strongest government-led efforts for developing recycled-material markets.
Clean Washington Center, a division of the Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development, will see all its funding from Washington state disappear and its staff shrink from 22 to about 10 at the end of June. The cuts will force CWC to become an independent organization.
Policy makers feel ``recycling is working and we can move on,'' said David Dougherty, CWC director. But he said he disagrees with that assessment, arguing that commodities markets still need support.
Calls to members of the Washington Legislature overseeing CWC were not returned.
CWC programs with funding from sources outside the Washington government will continue, such as the Recycling Technology Assistance Partnership. But many of its efforts to build markets or develop technology will suffer as CWC gets smaller and becomes a nonprofit corporation that looks outside the state, Dougherty said.
``We are transitioning to a regional entity,'' he said. ``We will be doing less of everything.''
The cuts will be a loss to recyclers because CWC's programs and information are used widely by other agencies, said Roberta Tousey, manager of North Carolina's Recycling Business Assistance Center in Raleigh, N.C.
``They have always been sort of the shining star as far as the recycling industry is concerned,'' she said.
No other organization provides the kind of hands-on technology help of ReTAP or can match its ability to be a national clearinghouse for sharing information and practices, said Edward Boisson, executive director of the Northeast Recycling Council in Brattleboro, Vt. CWC took some criticism for taking too long to develop ReTAP, but the program is working well now, he said.
The center said it helped to build Washington's capacity for reusing plastic from virtually zero, when it began in 1991, to 60 million pounds per year today. In all the recycling materials sectors, CWC has been directly involved in projects with $989 million in capital investment in the state, center officials said.
State officials felt the center was doing a good job but recycling has less political interest than rising issues like water quality, said Elizabeth Burger, assistant marketing manager for CWC.
CWC also lost funding because some waste haulers opposed the recycling bills in the state Legislature because recycling diverts landfill revenue, Dougherty said. Seattle and Tacoma, for example, recycle 47-50 percent of their residential waste stream, he said.
When CWC was created, state support was expected to be phased out this year but recyclers tried unsuccessfully to keep support going, Burger said.
The Legislature felt CWC should be privatized, but there is no strong incentive for the private sector to take on the responsibility since government still is primarily responsible for taking care of the materials collected, she said.
``The impetus for the manufacturing community is not there,'' Burger said.
With the loss of state funding, CWC's budget will drop from about $2 million to $1.3 million, said Dougherty. CWC still gets federal grants and recently received funding from Alaska, Idaho and Montana to provide services in those states, he said.
The American Plastics Council of Washington, D.C., also supports ReTAP, officials said.