City of

“Lose A Pound A Week”

The City of Madison’s Waste Reduction Program
Logo: Madison Waste Watchers The City of Madison has a very successful recycling program. Even though we recycled or composted over 57% of our waste stream last year, we still sent over 49,000 tons of material to the Dane County Landfill. That is 1,471 pounds of trash for each of Madison’s 67,000 households served by the Streets Division.

This large pile of trash costs Madison taxpayers $1,380,000 in landfill fees and another $544,000 to haul to the landfill.

A Trash Diet

The Streets Division wants to put Madison on a trash diet. Our goal is to get each of Madison’s 223,280 residents to reduce the amount of trash they generate by one pound each week. If we can do that we will reduce the volume of trash going to the landfill by 5,805 tons, a 12% reduction.

We are confident that Madisonians can reach the “Pound A Week” goal if they follow a simple plan. We have put together a few simple steps and lots of helpful hints to help you cut back on your trash. Some of the ideas are simple-others require some effort. But, we are convinced that in the long run the work will pay off and you will feel great about doing your part winning our war on garbage.

The Diet Plan

  • Keep a log of what you throw away. Having a record on paper of the contents of your garbage will let you know what you are getting rid of and help you plan your trash diet.
  • Track how much you throw out. Do this at the same time you track what you are tossing away. Count how many times you take out the trash each week or better yet, weigh each bag of trash on your bathroom scale. (Or, weigh yourself , then weigh yourself holding the bag of trash and subtract the first weight form the second to get the weight of your trash. Keep track of the weights for two or three weeks to get an idea of how much you are throwing away.
  • Draft a “Lose A Pound A Week” plan for your household based on the data you have collected.


It only makes sense to start any diet, even a trash diet with a discussion about food.

Does this sound familiar?

You like to think you eat healthy and you buy lots of fresh fruit and vegetables expecting to eat them during the week. Then, you come home from work every night worn out and just pop something in the microwave. When the weekend comes around and you finally have time to prepare a meal. You open the fridge and discover that all those healthy fruits and veggies and turned into a soggy mess. A recent study showed that 25% of all household food waste was from fruits and vegetables.

There are several proven ways to reduce the volume of food waste your household generates.

Shop Smart! Have a plan and a list when you grocery shop. Many of us base our food purchases on our perception of how we should eat instead of how we actually eat. Before you shop, think about your schedule for that week, how much you'll be able to cook, and how much will actually get eaten. Avoid buying fresh food in bulk if you usually don't get through it before the food goes bad. Buying large quantities to save money doesn't work if you end up throwing out food you don't use.

Cook & serve smaller portions at home. It's no secret that we Americans like our big servings. We don't like to see the plate - it should be piled high with food! It's usually too much food, and it either goes to waste when you are too full to finish your plate, or have leftovers that never get their chance to be eaten.

Freeze your leftovers. Freeze fresh or cooked food if you know you won't be able to use it in time.

Compost. A survey of participants in a Madison home composting study showed that the average household composted 220 pounds of food waste per year. Learn how to compost at home.

You can learn more tips on how to reduce your food waste and efforts on how the EPA and others are working to help reduce the impact of wasted food by visiting the EPA's Food Recovery Challenge and ReFed.


According to a 2017 study by the Wisconsin DNR, 82% of households report that they always recycle in Wisconsin. That's a high number, but that still means just about 1 in 5 Wisconsinsites are not. We can be better.

Review the list of recyclables to make sure you are recycling all you can, review the list of items that are recycled in Madison to make sure you are not missing something.

Go Beyond the Green Cart

In addition our curbside program, the City of Madison offers some additional drop-off recycling opportunities.

There are also some firms that can recycle or reuse items that the Streets Division cannot.

  • Books, both hard cover and soft cover can be taken to the Madison Recycling Center at 2200 Fish Hatchery Road - (608) 251-2115
  • There are other recycling locations for items such as ink jet cartridges, carpet, athletic shoes, even wine corks.

Make recycling a family affair

Involve everyone in the family in recycling - they can help! Talk about what can and can’t be recycled, and have them check to make sure other family members are doing a good job recycling. Post recycling guidelines in a prominent area for easy reference

Make it is easy to recycle

Put your recycling container next to your garbage can. Consider placing recycling containers in other areas of your house where recyclables are generated such as the garage, family room, or home office.


For Beverages
  • Drink tap water. Bottled water generates thousands of bottles that end up in the landfill, even in progressive communities like Madison. Bottled water also uses considerably more energy as it must be packaged and trucked to the store.
  • Bring your own reusable mug to work, meetings, and conferences. If you work in an office that provides coffee to employees, encourage management to initiate a "bring-your-own-mug" policy.
    • And avoid using single-serve coffee machines as generate a lot of plastic waste.
  • If you buy beverages while on the road, bring your own mug or container and/or patronize places that provide refillable containers.
  • Travel mugs make great gifts and a nice space for stickers.

At Meal Time

  • Use cloth napkins instead of paper. This lends a look of class to your meal and reduces waste.
  • Use real silverware not disposable plastic.
  • Don't use paper plates.

For Cleaning

  • Use reusable sponges and dishcloths rather than paper towels (sponges can be sanitized in a microwave or dishwasher).
  • When possible, choose items that are available in refillable containers (e.g., hand soap, disposable wipes, household cleaners).
  • Use old toothbrushes for cleaning things like bathroom tile.

For Leftovers

  • Reuse plastic containers or glass jars rather than plastic wrap or aluminum foil to store leftovers.
  • Bring your own plastic container with you when you go out to eat. Most restaurants will be happy to use it for your leftovers.

For Shopping

  • Use cloth shopping bags. Always keep cloth bags in your car or on the doorknob so you have then when you are going shopping.
  • Reuse the clear plastic bags you use to bring home produce from the supermarket. At home, remove the produce and place the empty bags with your canvas bags for your next trip.
  • Reuse brown paper bags, plastic grocery bags, and twist ties.
  • Shop at second hand stores and consignment shops. You can save money and you create a market for reused items.
      • Use online exchanges or rummage sales, too.

    For Reading

    • Use the library instead of buying books or magazines

    Once Is Not Enough, More Everyday Reuse Tips

    • Use rechargeable batteries whenever possible.
    • Reuse paper: cut it up and make scratch pads for home, the office, school, or groups; or let children use the backs of used paper to draw. Once paper has been used on both sides, recycle it.
    • Reuse boxes, bubble wrap, and packing "peanuts" for shipping items.
    • Reuse those large brown envelopes by placing blank address stickers over the old addresses.
    • Reuse gift boxes, ribbons, and wrapping paper to wrap future gifts or for arts and crafts projects.
    • If an appliance breaks, consider having it repaired rather than discarding it.
    • Rent, borrow, or share items that you use only occasionally. Family, friends, and neighbors, for example, can share items such as lawn mowers, party-size coffee pots, folding tables, and books.
    • Refill or recharge your printer, copier, and/or fax machine cartridges at home and your office.
    • If you pack a lunch for school or work, use a lunch box instead of paper bags and look for reusable containers for packing your sandwiches and other items.
    • Reuse dairy tubs for storing leftovers instead of purchasing expensive storage containers.

    Use Online Exchanges & Donation Opportunities

    Don't just throw out the unfashionable, but usable items. Try to re-sell them through the many online exchanges and or social media networks. There's also several secondhand stores in the area that will accept donations.


    • Look for containers and packaging that can be recycled, such as cardboard (even better if it is made from post-consumer recycled content).
    • Buy bulk food. You can get nuts, grains, beans and other dry goods in bulk in many places. This way you buy only what you need with a lot less packaging.
    • Avoid buying individually wrapped portions of things like cheese, pudding, and juice.
    • Buy frozen foods in plastic bags rather than boxes.
    • Don't buy disposable razors.
    • Single serve microwave items like soups are very wasteful. Buy canned soup, put it in a reusable microwave container and then recycle the can.

    Get Creative

    With a little bit of online searching, you can find dozens of tips, hacks, and tricks to creatively reuse old things. The social media site Pinterest is particularly deep on DIY crafts and ways to reuse old items.


    Reduce Your Trash During the Holidays

    Holiday Waste Reduction