Archived News: This news release is more than one year old and may include outdated information.

Progress but Room for Improvement

The City of Madison’s recyclables collected by the Streets Division contain 12.8% trash.

In other words, 12.8% of what is placed into our recycling carts should not be there and should instead go to the landfill.

Is this good news?
This new percentage is an improvement over the previous sampling, but we can be better.  We still need to focus on being sure we are recycling the right things the right way.

The previous sampling of Madison’s recyclables, which took place in October 2019, showed that our recycling contained 18.9% trash.  According to a 2020 Recycling Partnership report, America’s recycling contains on average 17% trash.

While our new contamination percentage is an improvement and puts us below the national average, there is still plenty of room for improvement.

Even at this now lower rate, we’re still placing over 2,000 tons of trash in the recyclables each year.

Driving the percent of trash in our recyclables below 10% is achievable if we follow the recycling rules.

Where can I learn more about recycling?
There are many resources for you and your family to recycle more and recycle right.

In July, the second session for the Sustain Dane Master Recycler course will be held. If you are interested in learning more about recycling and having the tools to help teach your friends, neighbors, and relatives about recycling right, then this Sustain Dane program may be for you. For more information about the Master Recycler course, and to sign up to attend, please go to Sustain Dane’s website.

The 2021 Recyclopedia is available. The booklet explains what you can, and cannot, recycle in Madison and provides more information about other Streets Division services like yard waste collection and snow plowing. It can be downloaded from the Streets Division’s website. Paper copies can be mailed out by request or picked up from your local Madison Public Library.

What items you can place into your recycling cart can also be found on Streets Division website,, and also on the lid of many of the recycling carts in Madison. We even have free magnets we can mail out to you upon request.

Where did the trash percentage number come from?
The new percent of trash in our recyclables is according to a sort of the recyclables preformed during the first week of April 2021 by Pellitteri Waste Systems. Pellitteri is the contractor who processes the recyclables collected by the Streets Division from the green curbside carts.

Additional Information
More information about the City of Madison recycling program and other services provided by the Streets Division can be found at