City of
Madison

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Food scraps recycling will be available at the Streets Division drop-off sites.

The program is available to Madison residents starting May 4, 2020 and last until October 31, 2020.

Residents only. No businesses, including restaurants, may use the drop-off site for food scraps recycling.

 

 

Basic information

The program is voluntary.

Residents choosing to participate must bring the appropriate food scraps to any of the three Streets Division drop-off sites and place their material into the food scraps recycling carts.

In order for this program to be successful, participants must follow the rules outlined on this page..

Putting the wrong material in the carts will end the program.

 

what food scraps will i be able to recycle at the drop-off sites?

Use this guide.

  • Fruits & Vegetables
  • Fruits and vegetables can be placed into the wasted food cart.
  • Coffee Grounds
  • Coffee grounds can be placed into the wasted food cart.
  • Dairy Products
  • Dairy products (cheese, milk, yogurt, etc.) can be placed into the wasted food cart.
  • Baked Goods & Pastas
  • Baked goods and pastas can be placed into the wasted food cart.

 

 

 

The wasted food carts will be inspected before they are emptied into the trucks to go to the processor.

Any cart containing noticeable contamination will instead go to the landfill.

 

use betterbin!

The Streets Division partnered with ERbin to provide residents the Betterbin app.

On Betterbin, residents can search for specific food items to learn if they can be recycled as part of the food scraps program.

Betterbin has a far more extensive list of foodstuff than what is found here or the paper guide. Can't find it on Betterbin? Let us know and the app will be updated with the answer.

Even though it is an app, you do not need to download Betterbin in order to use it. Just go to their website and search.

You can find out more about Betterbin on their flyer.

 

how will i be able to participate?

Take the appropriate food scraps to one of the Streets Division drop-off sites and place just the food scraps into the appropriate cart.

Look for the "Food Scraps Recycling" sign and the black & orange carts.  Empty your container of approved food scraps into the cart.

Example of the food scraps recycling carts

 

 

 

 

what is banned from the wasted food carts?

Below is a partial list of what you cannot recycle as part of this program. 

  • Bones
  • Egg shells
  • Seafood shells
  • Nut shells
  • Corn cobs
  • Pet waste
  • Diapers
  • Food wrappers of any kind
  • Food packaging
  • Plastic items of any kind
  • Compostable plastics of any kind (cups, cutlery, bags, etc.)
  • Nopales
  • Yard waste
  • Brush
  • General trash
  • Stickers that are on fruits and vegetables
  • Glass items (bottles, jars, etc.)
  • Metal items (cans, aluminum foil, etc.)
  • Tea bags (see explanation below)
  • Chopsticks and other bamboo utensils
  • Other very hard items like peach pits and avocado seeds

 

Frequently asked questions & explanations

Can I put bags full of food scraps into the carts at the drop-off sites?

No.  Empty the bags or container into the food scraps cart. 

Do not put compostable, biodegradeable, or plastic bags into the food scraps carts.

I really would prefer to have my food waste in a bag. Are you sure I cannot use a bag?

If you must have the food scraps in a bag, use plain brown paper bags, or other untreated paper. Using newspaper (not the advertisements, just the newsprint) to wrap food scraps is okay, too. 

Do not use gift bags. Do not use boxes of any kind, including ones from meal kit deliveries, other food delivery services, or CSAs.

What about paper towels?

They belong in the trash in most instances, like if they are used to clean a countertop, drying your hands, wiping off your face following a meal, and other similar common paper towel uses. 

Paper is not a desirable material for a manure biodigester. It doesn't hurt their operations, but it doesn't help either, which is why plain paper bags can be used for food scraps.

The food within the bag is valuable - the paper is not.

What kind of container do I have to use to bring the food scraps to the drop-off sites?

This is your choice. Remember, you will be emptying your container into a food scraps cart. 

You can use a five gallon bucket or coffee can. You can buy a special container, or reuse something from around the house. Using a container with a lid makes the most sense to keep out any pests and cut down on odors.

If you are looking for something specifically designed for this task, there are many food waste containers available through online retailers, some of which even have charcoal filters to help with any odor issues.

Where will the food scraps go?

There is one local processing option for larger scale food scraps processing at present. It's the dairy manure biodigester owned by Gundersen Health Systems.

I cannot put bones, eggs, and shells into the wasted food cart.  Why?

When ground up, these hard materials act like sandpaper in this anaerobic digester's system and can damage the pipes.

I cannot put yard waste and brush into the wasted food cart.  Why?

Yard waste and brush can clog in the digester system.

Just put the yard waste and brush in the appropriate spots at the drop-off sites.

I cannot put corn cobs or corn husks into the food scraps carts. Why?

These items can also cause clogs at this digester, so we must avoid them.

I cannot put compostable plastics, or containers and cutlery into the wasted food cart. Why?

It can be quite confusing to tell which containers and cutlery are actually compostable and which ones are not.  The same is true for other plastic-appearing items, like bags.

We are avoiding this problem and requiring that these kind of items be kept out.

I cannot put food packaging and food wrapping into the cart.  Why?

Most food packaging, like butter wrappers and potato chip bags, are plastic or covered in a coating where they will not break down like regular paper. They belong in the trash.

What about chopsticks or bamboo utensils? Are those okay?

No, not for this program. Chopsticks and other wooden utensils behave like brush or sticks that can lead to blockages in this digester.

Why can't I put tea bags into the wasted food cart? That doesn't make any sense.

Tea bags are more complicated than what you would assume. Some have metal staples. The strings can be a problem digester system and may not compost correctly. And some tea bags are actually plastic. Due to all of these complications, no tea bags.   The tea leaves inside the bags would be okay, but not the whole bag & string.

I cannot put pet waste into the food scraps carts. Why? It's a manure digester. What's the difference?

This program is about food scraps, so we should focus on diverting that. For simplicity's sake, no pet waste. Put your pet's waste in the trash.

For this program to be a success, we need two things: 1) take the digester material we know they can process without worry, and 2) simple rules to guarantee the first rule can occur. 

Since not all pet waste is appropriate for the program due to the microbes in their waste, and considering the species & diet diversity of our pet population, the simple rule to keep this program working is no pet waste at all.

Pet waste belongs in the trash.

I cannot put diapers into the food scraps cart. Why?

Diapers belong in the trash.

Human waste cannot be processed like cow manure because it has different microbial properties. It has no place in a program like this.

Plus, disposable diapers are mostly plastic and will not compost.

Diapers belong in the trash. (Related tip: consider cloth diapers, if possible, to avoid making disposable diaper trash. With these you can flush the waste, then wash & reuse the diaper.)

 

Food Scraps Tips

Freezing Helps Contain Smells

If you have space in a freezer at your home, stashing food scraps there until time to bring them to a drop-off site will cut down on smells.

Keep the Food Scraps Bucket Near the Food Prep Area

A small bucket, around the size of a hotel ice bucket, should be sufficient for most homes. Keeping it near the food prep area makes it easy to scrape plates and vegetable trimmings into the bucket and ready for transport.

Use the Sites Regularly

Coming to the sites about once a week should help keep any unpleasant odors and flies that can develop when storing food scraps. It would be a good stop on the regular weekend chore list.

Not Generating Much Food Waste? Great!

It's always best to avoid making waste in the first place. If you are not generating much wasted food, that's fantastic, and keep up the good work. We are not encouraging food wastefulness. It's meant to divert (some) of the food scraps we can't help but make.

When in Doubt - Throw it Out

Our food is more complicated than what you would think.. If you're not sure whether or not the food scraps are eligible for the program, and you can't find the answer on the app, and you need an answer faster than what we can reply, place the item into the trash. We only have one processing option locally right now, so we have to be sure to only give them material they can accept.

 

OTHER COMPOSTING OPTIONS

If you are interested in composting your food scraps and the drop-off sites just won't work for your needs, these composters may be able to offer the service to you for a collection fee:

Commercial entities may also want to consider inquiring with Sanimax to see if they can offer food scraps services.  The drop-off sites are for residents and can't support the volume generated by restaurants, food manufacturers, and other businesses.  Commercial entities are also encouraged to contact the company that presently hauls their refuse and recycling to see if a food scraps program is an available service.

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