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As part of the 2022 operating budget, the City of Madison instituted a Resource Recovery Special Charge to fund the Streets Division's recycling operations.

This is a special charge that will appear on the monthly Municipal Services bill for the residences and select businesses who use our recycling collection service.

Single-family homes and multi-family buildings of 8 or fewer units are automatically enrolled in the Resource Recovery Special Charges.

Commercial properties must elect to opt into our collecting using the steps described below.

current rate

In 2022, the special charge rate is $4.08 a month.

For 2023, the special charge will be $4.08 a month.

special charge contact options

  • Leave a message on the Special Charge Hotline at 608-243-5899. Your call will be returned as soon as we can.




who pays the Resource Recovery special charge?

All Madison properties who receive recycling collection from the City of Madison will receive this special charge.

The charge will appear on the monthly municipal services bill.


Residential Properties

The fee is charged per residential unit, or dwelling unit, within the property.

For example, if you have a single-family home the fee would be $4.08 a month in 2023 since this building has just one dwelling unit. 

To continue with the example, if a building is a 4-unit apartment the fee would then be the monthly rate times four - in 2023 that would be $16.32 a month.


Commercial Properties

Some businesses may be able to utilize Streets Division collections for recycling, and they too will be required to pay the Resource Recovery Special Charge.

If a non-residential property is eligible to receive our collection services, they will be charged the monthly rate times the number of recycling carts they use.


Commercial property eligibility

In order for a business to be able to eligible for our collection services, they will first need to make a request for the services.

Requests can be made by completing this online form.

You can also send an email request to

You can also call and leave a voicemail at 608-243-5899. 

Upon receipt of the request, a supervisor will assess your property to see if you can receive our collection services.

To be eligible for city services you will need:

  • The appropriate frontage space adjacent to your property to have the carts out for collection,
  • The ability to place the recyclables generated into collection carts,
  • The ability to follow all recycling guidelines as to what should be inside the cart,
  • The ability to store the carts within City of Madison ordinance,
  • The ability to have the carts out on time for the scheduled collection day.

Cart usage & storage requirements

Businesses and multi-family buildings that unable to follow the cart usage and cart storage rules may be ruled ineligible for city collection services and required to obtain private recycling collection.

Cart usage rules for recycling carts can be found here.

The ordinance regarding cart storage is enforced by Building Inspection can you can read the relevant ordinances here: MGO 10.18; MGO 7.36; and MGO 27.04(2)(c).


frequently asked questions


Why does this charge exist?

The special charge was passed as part of the 2022 operating budget and it is expected to continue in additional budgets to come.


Why not just pay for recycling with property taxes, like other services?

The City’s costs to continue providing services - all services, not just recycling - are higher than its revenues.

The State has placed limits on local governments’ ability to increase property taxes while also reducing state aid to cities. 

There are two options to address this gap of funding. 

One option is to provide fewer services and the other is to find new ways to pay for services through mechanisms like special charges.

Cuts were made.  In the same 2022 budget that created the special charge, the Mayor and Council cut $1.4 million from the budgets of almost every department.

In order to continue providing services to Madison residents, the City must utilize its ability to cover some costs through special charges. 

One of the services provided by Madison that can be shifted from the property taxes to a special charge is recycling.


How is the special charge rate set?

The Common Council also sets the rate each year.

The yearly amount is expected to be a simple formula where the costs of the recycling services are divided by the number of entities served by the Streets Division.


This special charge is regressive. Why can't we do it in a progressive way?

There are two ways that some charges can be applied in a progressive manner (which are explained below). However, they do not apply to the Resource Recovery Special Charge.

  • Paying more if you use more:

This is a concept that works well with some bills, but not recycling. For example, on your Municipal Services bill, paying per gallon of water used incentivizes conservation.

With recycling, recycling more (and recycling right) is a good thing. The special charge is not designed to encourage people to recycle less.


  • Paying less if you have a lower income:

State law does not allow differentiation by income in setting this charge.  


Is there a way for me to pay less? Put the cart out fewer times? Get a smaller cart?


The charge is a flat amount across all entities that receive recycling services from the City Streets Division for recycling collection. If you receive our services, then the Resource Recovery Special Charge applies.

The special charge isn't specifically about processing or sorting the material you generate.  It's about funding the entire collection system so it can be there when you need it. 


What happens if I just don't recycle? Does that mean I don't have to pay?

Recycling is mandatory in the City of Madison and throughout Wisconsin. 

Failing to recycle can result in fines from Building Inspection and the Streets Division will stop collecting your trash if recyclables are found in the tan cart for your home or business.. Recyclables are banned from landfills in Wisconsin, too.

Plus, you will still pay the special charge. It is not based on the volume of recycling you create.


Why is it called the "Resource Recovery Special Charge"?

When you recycle, we recover resources from those materials.


This special charge seems like it will mean people will recycle less. How are you going to be sure people keep recycling?

The special charge for residential buildings is not based on cart size, the number of carts, or even how full the carts are, so it will not be a disincentive to recycling.

It is a flat amount that everyone pays that receives recycling services, and you cannot opt out of recycling. 

Getting a smaller cart will not reduce the amount of the special charge for your home. Trying to get by with fewer carts than what you need will also not reduce the special charge.

Since recyclables are banned from landfills throughout Wisconsin, our trash collectors will not take garbage carts stuffed with recycling.

Businesses must also provide recycling services, whether those are through commercial haulers or the Streets Division.  Those that elect to use city collections are responsible for the special charge, too.  And just like residences, they cannot place their recycling in the trash, and they will be monitored.


I don't create a lot of recyclables in my home. If I pay this flat rate, does that mean I am subsidizing people that make more than me?


The special charge isn't specifically about processing or sorting the material you generate. 

It's about funding the entire collection system so it can be there when you need it. 


Where does the money that is collected go and what is it used for?

The Resource Recovery Special Charge will be collected through Madison Municipal Services bill and be allocated into a designated fund. These funds will then be used specifically to pay for the costs already incurred by the City to support the recycling program.


Does this Resource Recovery Special Charge affect trash collection?


The special charge is only for recycling services.  If you receive trash collection from the City of Madison, you may continue doing so with no change or special charge for the service.


Since I will be charged by residential unit within my building, can I have more recycling carts?

Multi-family buildings that use Streets Division recycling services will be allowed an equal number of recycling carts to the number of apartments within the building.  You must use and store your carts correctly in order to continue service with the Streets Division.


Does the Resource Recovery apply to all buildings and properties in the City?

This charge only applies to those served by the Streets Division recycling program.

Many commercial buildings, large apartment or condo buildings, and some homes served via private roads or carriage lanes receive recycling services through a private company.

If you are served by a private company at your business or home, you will not receive this special charge, as you already pay for recycling services separately.


What about large apartment or condo buildings?

If your multi-family building is larger than 8 units, then you will be ineligible to receive city collections.

There are some exemptions to this rule.  There are some outlier situations where buildings that contain more than 8 units have been collected by the Streets Division prior to the instituting of this special charge.

These special cases may continue receiving city collection services provided they pay the appropriate special charge (which is the monthly rate times the number of dwelling units in the building that uses the carts) and the carts are used & stored correctly.

If the properties with more than 8 units wish to opt out of city collection to instead use private service for their trash and recycling, they may do so.  Buildings of 8 units and fewer must use city collection services in most instances.


Do I have to use collection carts for recycling services?


Your recyclables, including cardboard, must be placed into a recycling cart for collection.  Failure to do so may result in the recyclables not being collected.


Can I choose to use a private hauler for my trash and recycling collection instead of the Streets Division?

Existing residential customers in building of fewer than 8 units cannot opt out of the City recycling service.

Businesses and multi-family buildings of more than 8 units can elect to use private haulers. If you do elect to use a private hauler for recycling services, you will not be charged the Resource Recovery Special Charge.

Be mindful of ordinances about dumpster placement and enclosures. Contact Building Inspection at 608-266-4551 for details regarding these ordinances.


What about places that are apartments on top of a business, or some other mix of residential & business?

Let's use an example. 

Say there's three apartments above a coffee shop and all of them use City of Madison recycling collection. 

The bill for the property would be the monthly rate for the RRSC for each of the apartments, and then add in the number of carts the coffee shop needs to successfully recycle the materials they generate.

To continue the example, let's assume the coffee shop requires 2 recycling carts for their cardboard, clean takeout cups, and other material.

The total charge for this example building would add the apartments RRSC (3 apartments x $4.08 = $12.24) to the coffee shop's RRSC (2 carts x $4.08 = $8.16) for a total monthly RRSC for this property of $20.40.

Not every situation will be this straightforward. Feel free to contact us to work out what is right for your property.

what happens to your recycling?

Watch a video about the Pellitteri Waste Systems recycling facility sorts everything you have placed into the recycling carts.