Madison Kicks Off the Reduce Your Waste Stream Challenge

Friday, April 26, 2013 - 7:07am

The City of Madison is launching a new program called the Reduce Your Waste Stream Challenge. The Challenge will pit one hundred Madison households against each other in a competition to cut the volume of material they throw away, increase their recycling, and start composting.

"As a community, Madison has an outstanding recycling program," Madison recycling coordinator George Dreckmann said. "But we know from waste sorts and studies that we could do much better. The Reduce Your Waste Stream Challenge is our way of calling attention to the trash we are still throwing away and showing our community how to recycle more, reduce waste, and start composting in the backyard."

The Reduce Your Waste Stream Challenge is a program of the Associated Recyclers of Wisconsin (AROW), the state's recycling organization. It has been done for several years in Waukesha County. The Madison Challenge will have 100 volunteer households set up in teams of five households each. The teams will be organized around the City's 20 recycling collection districts.

The Challenge asks participants to measure their weekly household garbage and recycling and actively try to reduce the trash and increase the recycling over the course of one month. Each household establishes a baseline weekly weight, by weighing a typical amount of trash generated by the household, before making extra efforts to reduce. This is often eye-opening. Then, households embark on trying to reduce their garbage weight down to virtually zero while increasing recycling and composting.

"We are looking for typical Madison households to join the Challenge," Dreckmann said."We would prefer folks who are not currently composting and that consider themselves average recyclers. Participating households will need a bathroom scale, internet access, and a willingness to try and change their disposal habits."

Waukesha County households that participated in the Challenge were able to reduce their waste by 49% and increase their recycling by 66%. Based upon studies we have done in Madison we think that it would be reasonable to expect similar results.

Participants in the Challenge will measure their waste and recycling volumes for a normal week. They will then take actions to cut waste and increase recycling and composting over a four
week period. There will be weekly weigh ins and results will be posted on a special Challenge web site. Participants will also be asked to blog about their experiences on the web page.

Prizes will be awarded to teams and households based upon the volume and percentage of waste reduced and the volume and percentage of recycling increase. Prizes include gift certificates from the Concourse Hotel, the Williams St. Coop, the Plaza Tavern, Ian's Pizza and Union Cab.

To volunteer your household for the Challenge go to and follow the instructions.

"We are very excited about the Reduce Your Waste Stream Challenge, "Mayor Paul Soglin said. "We feel it is the perfect way to celebrate Earth Day by taking action to improve our environment."


  • George Dreckmann267-2626