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This is a recycling cart with a lot of cardboard on top of it

Cardboard should go into the recycling cart.  You should empty and flatten all of your cardboard boxes as well. 

But what if you have a lot of boxes? Or if you have more that can fit inside? 

And is that picture above the right way to do it? (Click here for the answer)

You have two options for excess cardboard if you follow the rules:


OPTION ONE: load it up and bring it DOWN

Empty and flatten your boxes.

It will only takes a few extra seconds to empty & flatten boxes.

The Styrofoam sheets, plastic straps, and other stuff inside the box cannot stay inside of it when you recycle the box.  Not everything inside your boxes are recyclable.

City of Madison residents and taxpayers can bring all the cardboard that does not fit into their recycling cart to one of the drop-off sites.

Why do you have flatten boxes if you are taking them to a drop-off site?

Big boxes like from televisions do not fit into the compactor at our east side location. At our other drop-off sites, we do not always have trucks available that can handle large volumes of boxes that are not flattened (this is especially true in the fall months.)  Plus, it will make them easier to transport (and see out of your car windows when you drive). 

The drop-off sites hours change seasonally, so be sure they are open before loading your vehicle and arriving at the site.

All drop-off site restrictions apply.



If you follow the below steps, the Streets Division crews will collect excess cardboard at the curb on your scheduled recycling day.

You are limited to just 10 bundles of cardboard outside of the cart at one time, and you may only have excess cardboard this way on two occasions during a single calendar year.  Go to our page about recyclables outside the cart for additional details.

NOTE: Know the weather before setting excess cardboard. Rain and snow will damage cardboard and could prevent it from being recycled, and high winds could blow it away.

Step 1: Empty & flatten all the boxes that do not fit into the cart. Do not place flattened boxes into a larger box.

Step 2: Cut or fold the excess cardboard down into roughly 3' x 3' squares.

Step 3: Bundle all the loose cardboard together using string or twine. The bundles should not be taller than 6 inches.

Step 4: Place the cardboard out to the curb for recycling collection in one of the following ways:

A) If it is only a small amount of excess and the lid will be able to stay closed, place the cardboard under the lid of the cart like this:

Excess cardboard cut to 3 foot by 3 foot squares and bound with twine and place under the lid of the recycling cart


B) If it is too much where the lid on the cart will not stay down to pinch the cardboard, stack it next to the recycling cart like this:

Stack of excess cardboard cut down to 3 foot by 3 foot squares, bundled with twine, and neatly stacked next to the recycling cart


Cardboard set out differently than detailed above may not be collected.

These guidelines are in place because Streets Division operators will need to collect the cardboard outside the cart by hand in many cases. The bundles of cardboard must be easily manageable so the operator can exit their truck then safely lift the bundles in order to get them into the recycling truck.

Answer to the above question:The picture at the top of this page is someone who did not set out their excess cardboard correctly. A large stack of cardboard like the photo at the top of the page would fall off the top of the cart when it is lifted to be emptied. The stack should have just been put next to the cart on the ground (or taken to a drop-off site)box.


Other options

Recycling cardboard is easy. But there are other options.

Perhaps donating boxes to a church, community organization, or thrift store. 

Social media groups are a good place to share boxes, especially the local buy nothing and zero waste groups.

Neighborhood social media pages are also a good resource to share boxes in good shape.

And, depending on the box, it could be valuable. If you have a vintage video game box in good condition or a toy box, believe it or not, there may be a collector out there interested in that item.

With a little creativity and detective work, you may be able to find an alternate way to reuse or recycle them.



Contact us.