Frequently Asked Questions

Collection and General Questions

Recyclable Items Questions

What if an item is too large to fit in my cart?

For garbage items that are too large to fit in your cart, learn how to handle bulky items.

For recyclables, bulky #2 plastics, like a laundry basket or 5 gallon bucket can be placed next to your cart. Cardboard should be flattened and can be placed under your bin/cart or leaned up against it.

Large items for garbage or recycling can also be taken to a Drop Off Disposal Center.

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What if I have too many recyclables?

Extra recyclables can be placed in a clear plastic bag next to your bin. Flattened cardboard can be leaned against the cart or placed underneath it. Extra recyclables can also be taken to a Drop Off Disposal Center.

If you consistently need additional space for recyclables, request an additional recycling cart online or by calling 286-CITY (2489)

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Do my recyclables end up in the landfill with everything else?

No. All recyclable materials accepted in the program are sent to recycling markets. It is only the non-accepted items that are sorted out and sent to a landfill. When collection crews occasionally encounter a recycling cart with too much contamination (garbage or non-recyclables), they leave behind an orange tag and if it is not resorted by the residence, a fine is issued and a garbage truck is sent to collect the items instead.

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Do my leaves go to the landfill?

No. All of the leaves collected by the City of Milwaukee are composted, as are all of the yard waste brought to the Drop Off Disposal Centers. A separate company produces finished compost and markets it in bulk form to other companies that bag it under various brand names and sell it in retail stores. Milwaukee yard waste comes full circle to replenish yards and gardens of residents who purchase compost from local stores.

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Why don't we separate our paper from our bottles and cans anymore?

In 2011 the City of Milwaukee switched to a Single-Sort or Mixed Recycling program. This allows all of your recyclables to be mixed together in your recycling cart. It means you only have to make one sort - separating all of the recyclables from your trash. Special equipment is used to separate all of your bottles and cans from paper once they reach our recycling facility. This DOES NOT mean garbage and recyclables can be mixed together. Garbage goes straight to the landfill. Learn more about the recycling facility here.

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Recycling isn't available at my apartment. What can I do?

Recycling is required by state law and City ordinance. Single family homes, duplexes, apartments with 4 or fewer units, and some condos are serviced by the City of Milwaukee. To request a cart, complete an online request or call 286-CITY (2489). If you are in an apartment with 5 or more units, your landlord is required to provide recycling. If your landlord refuses to provide recycling, you can file a complaint with the City by calling 286-CITY (2489).

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Recycling isn't happening at a business. What can I do?

All commercial properties are required by state law and City ordinance to recycle. Complaints about non-recycling at a business in the City of Milwaukee can be reported to 286-CITY (2489). If the business is outside of the City of Milwaukee, or if you are unsure about what municipality the business is in it is best to contact the DNR and they will route the information to the appropriate Responsible Unit (unit of government that is responsible for recycling activities in the area) for follow-up. Current email and phone numbers are available here.

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Paper - Do I need to remove staples, paper clips, or plastic windows from envelopes?

No. Screening equipment at paper recycling mills can remove these small contaminants. Paper clips and binder clips should be removed and reused if possible, although they don't affect the recycling process.

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Paper - Are sticky notes OK to recycle?

Some papers containing self adhesives cause problems at paper mills. However, the makers of the adhesive used in Post-it notes (3M) use a type of adhesive that is fully compatible with the recycling process so they can be recycled.

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Paper - Can glue dots on junk mail be recycled?

No. Glue dots, glue boogers, or fugitive glue (the industry term), that are often used to attach a credit card to a paper mailing are NOT recyclable. They should be removed from the paper and thrown in the trash.

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Paper - How can I recycle shredded paper?

In modern Single Sort facilities such as the City of Milwaukee's, it is difficult to sort and recover shredded paper or loose paper scraps smaller than the size of a postcard. While this paper should be included, increase the chance of it being recycled by putting shredded paper in a closed paper or clear plastic bag. Also consider taking documents to special shredding events in the community.

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Plastic - Why don't we recycle all plastics #1 - #7?

Recycling requires a demand for a material from a manufacturer that will use that material to make a new product. The City of Milwaukee only collects plastic bottles, jugs, and tubs #1, #2, #4, #5 because this is what is manufacturers are using to make new products from this region. This is one reason why purchasing items from recycled materials, or closing the loop, is so important - it helps strengthen these markets!

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Glass - Why doesn't the City collect drinking glasses or window glass for recycling?

The manufacturing of different glass products such as drinking glasses, window glass, and ceramics or china requires the addition of ingredients that are considered contaminants in the glass recycling process. Additionally, these items may damage sorting equipment, which is engineered specifically for jars, containers, and bottles.

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