City of
Madison

Recycling basics

  • All recyclables should be free from food and other debris

 

what to put in your recycling cart

Use this guide to see what can go into your cart (or keep reading this page).  Prinit this guide and post it on the fridge or elsewhere at home so everyone can know what should go into the recycling. 

You may even want to check the lid of your recycling cart, too, since many carts now have this guide printed on them. The lid guide is perfect for printing and posting, too.

You can get a free 3" x 5" magnet from that covers the recycling basics, too.

Paper Recycling

Paper items that can be recycled

 

The following clean and dry paper products can be recycled in your green recycling cart:

  • Newspapers and the inserts
  • Flattened cardboard
  • Mail
  • Magazines and catalogs
  • Paper bags
  • Envelopes
  • Office & computer paper
  • Phone books
  • Cardboard-sided cans
  • Cereal & cracker boxes
  • Cardboard tube cores from paper products
  • Frozen food & soda boxes
  • Gift wrap
  • Egg cartons
  • Milk & juice cartons
  • Broth, soy milk, juice boxes and other aseptic/Tetrapak boxes
  • Receipts and bills
  • Paper/cardboard backing from retail packages

 

SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Cardboard boxes

Flatten all cardboard boxes and place them inside the recycling cart.

Boxes that do not fit inside your cart should be flattened and cut down to a 3' x 3' size, tied in bundles 6" in height or less. Place the bundles under the cart lid or in a neat pile next to the collection cart.

You can also bring excess cardboard to a drop-off site.  

  • Pizza boxes

The parts of the pizza box contaminated by food and grease should go into the trash.  You can recycle the clean sections of pizza boxes by tearing them off.  For more information on pizza box recycling...

  • Shredded paper

Place shredded paper in clear bags, tie the bag shut, and then place the bag into the recycling cart.. The bag of shredded paper should be no larger than a basketball.

 

Paper Items that Do Not Belong in the Recycling Cart:

  • Diapers
  • Photographs
  • Sanitary napkins
  • Soiled and/or stained cardboard & paper products
  • Padded envelopes
  • Tissue paper & foil wrapping paper

 

Plastic Recycling

Plastic items that can be recycling in the green cart at home

 

The following rinsed clean and dry plastic items can be placed in your green recycling cart:

  • Bottles (caps/lids on)
  • Jugs & jars (caps/lids on)
  • Dairy & deli tubs
  • Condiment bottles
  • Shell packaging like what is around electronics or toys
  • Berry containers & mushroom trays
  • Frozen juice containers
  • Other plastic boxes, containers, or bottles with necks that are #1 through #7 plastics
  • Yogurt containers

 

SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Cups

Only cups that are #1, #2, and #5 plastic can go into the cart. Be sure the cups are clean and dry before placing them into the cart.

  • Plastic bags/film

Visit the plastic bag website to be sure you are bundling the correct type of bags the correct way.

You can also take them back to stores.

 

Plastic Items that Do Not Belong in the Recycling Cart:

  • Microwave dinner plates & other food-stained plastic containers
  • Food stained containers
  • Hoses
  • Bubble wrap
  • Cling wrap or cellophane
  • Motor oil bottles
  • Styrofoam

Can and metal recycling

Metal items that can go into the recycling cart

The following empty & clean metal items can be placed in your green recycling cart:

  • Aluminum, tin, and steel cans & lids
  • Aluminum foil (balled up to the size of a baseball)
  • Aersol cans
  • Paint cans & lids
  • Foil pans
  • Pots & pans

 

SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS

  • Small metal appliances

If an item is most metal like a toaster or a coffeemaker, it can be placed into the recycling cart. Place all of the glass parts into the tan trash container.

  • Bottle caps, keys, etc.

Small metal items like bottle caps can be recycled if they are placed into a larger metal container, like a tin can. Crimp the can closed so the small metal items cannot fall out, and put the can into the recycling.

  • Small metal items

Other metal items like plumbing fixtures or pipes can also be placed into the recycling cart, but these items must weigh less than 10 pounds and be shorter than 18 inches in length.

  • Large metal items

Bigger metal items (like posts and filing cabinets), or tangling items (like aluminum blinds or chicken wire), or very heavy items (like car parts), can be recycled if they taken to a drop-off site. Some of these items may also be collected as large item.

 

glass RECYCLING

Glass items that can be recycled in the green cart

The following empty & clean glass item without lids can be placed in your green recycling cart:

  • Jars
  • Bottles

 

Glass Items that Do Not Belong in the Recycling Cart:

  • Windows
  • Mirrors
  • Ceramics
  • Drinking glasses
  • Vision glasses
  • Dishes and bowls
  • Flower pots and vases
  • Fluorescent light bulbs
  • LED or incandescent light bulbs
  • Laboratory glass & chemical bottles

 

general Recycling tips

  • Keeping the lid of the recycling cart closed protects the material inside from the rain and snow that can damage paper.
  • Flattening boxes, cans and plastic bottles will save space in your cart for material.

 

what happens to your recycling?

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

 

Recyclopedia & Fact sheets

Looking for more information on Streets Division services and even more recycling details? Download the 2019 Recyclopedia

Paper copies of the Recyclopedia are available at Madison Public Libraries and can be mailed to your home by request (just contact the Streets Division).

The new Recyclopedia is designed to be easy to use and search while on your computer. You're welcome to download the PDF file or just bookmark the page. Be sure to update your bookmarks with the 2019 version.

And for something that has more detail than the photo guide, but less than the Recyclopedia, here's our reference guide to the rules and guidelines for recycling.

And while you're learning what to put into the cart the correct way, here's the guide on how to use the cart itself the right way:

You can even use the lid of your recycling cart, which may have this guide on it.

Our universe of stuff is complicated and constantly changing. So you may still encounter an item or question that is not covered by any of these resources. Please contact us and we'll help.