New pilot study program for the collection of food and yard waste from residents

Organic items, such as kitchen scraps and yard debris, can make up a considerable amount of a household's waste. While City programs exist to collect leaves and brush, other yard debris like garden trimmings and grass clippings must be taken to a Drop Off Center. Food waste, if not composted at home or put down the garbage disposal, usually ends up going to the landfill. DPW is researching another approach - providing a separate cart for organics collection as an added service option for a fee. To begin testing the feasibility of this service offering for Milwaukee, DPW will run a 12-month pilot program available to a limited number of interested residents within the pilot study zone. Like us on Facebook for program updates and highlights and other recycling and waste reduction news!

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What are the benefits of this type of service?

The carted collection of organic items in a separate cart for commercial composting offers many benefits.

  • Convenience. Items like grass clippings that previously needed to be taken to a Drop Off Center can, with this system, be collected from your home.
  • Reduce waste sent to the landfill. 3 households composting food waste for 1 year equals 1 ton of food waste that won't go to the landfill.
  • Promote healthy soils. Compost is a wonderful, nutrient-rich soil amendment. Commercial composting allows more things to be easily composted than if you are composting in your back yard.

What else can I do?

Whether you do or do not participate in the Pilot Study, there are a lot of things you can do to reduce the impact of your food and yard waste. Learn about managing yard waste on your property by grasscycling and leaf mulching, composting in your own yard and in the community, and reducing food waste before it is even created.

Interested in participating?

Bay View, East Side, Riverwest, and surrounding area residents in 1 - 4 unit buildings or condos who currently receive City collection are eligible to apply to be included in the study. See eligibility map.

At this time, all spots in the pilot are filled. Eligible residents that are interested can complete the interest form to be placed on the waiting list.

Choosing not to participate? Please answer our 1 question survey to tell us why.


What does this service cost?

There is a separate $12.75 per month service fee for those who choose to have this additional collection service.


What will I receive?

Participants will receive the following:


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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the benefits to having my compostable items collected? Isn’t it better to do this in my own back yard?

While grasscycling and home composting is best, many residents are unable to compost on their own property. This service aims to assist those residents who still wish to divert their organic material from the landfill. Commercial composting, like the program DPW is studying, also allows the collection of some items (like bones and cooked meat) that are more difficult to handle in a smaller, home system.


Why is this study being done? How were the neighborhoods chosen?

The Mayor adopted a goal to increase the annual landfill diversion by 40% by 2020. To help residents send less to the landfill DPW has

  • offered single-sort (or mixed) recycling and increased scheduled collections
  • promoted store drop-off locations for plastic bag and film recycling
  • promoted backyard composting by hosting annual sales with compost bins available at a reduced rate

In 2015 the Common Council passed a resolution that directed DPW to study the feasibility of an optional organics collection program by operating a pilot for 1 year. The costs of this additional collection service were to be passed on to the residents that chose to participate. DPW selected the contractor through a competitive RFP process.

Eligible neighborhoods are those in the City of Milwaukee between the lake and the freeway (I-94 or I-43) from Capitol Drive to Howard Avenue. This pilot area was designated in the resolution adopted by the Common Council.


What happens to the compost that is being made from the organics collected?

Compost Crusader, the hauler, delivers the material to Blue Ribbon Organics. There, the facility processes the material for 4 - 6 months. Finally, it is screened and sold as finished compost. The compost is sold in bulk as well as locally in some stores.


Why does this service cost money?

Collecting and transporting material, whether it is garbage, recyclables, or organics, costs a significant amount of money. Also, while it is cheaper to "tip" or take materials to a composting facility for processing as opposed to landfilling, there is still a cost associated with this disposal method that the sale of compost does not completely off-set. Residents who choose to participate in this optional program are paying these costs.

The City of Milwaukee is realizing some cost savings because less garbage is going to the landfill from program participants. DPW is providing a credit towards the cost of service to those subscribers to thank them for participating and to recognize the anticipated landfill savings. This savings is $1 per month per participating household. This reduces the cost to $12.75 per household per month. DPW is also, separate from these savings, providing the cart to participants at no charge.


Can neighbors share a cart?

Yes, a participant can agree to share the use of the cart with neighbors; however, DPW cannot split the costs associated with this program between addresses.


How can my large apartment complex or business participate?

This program is for 1 - 4 unit residential participants. Several companies provide this type of service for commercial accounts. We encourage you to speak with these companies to find a service that meets your needs.


Video Tutorials

These videos were made for Portland, Oregon and are provided here as a resource for Milwaukee's pilot program.  While Portland's program is similar to our pilot program, there are some differences.

Please note, that raw meat is NOT accepted in Milwaukee's Pilot Study and all food scraps MUST be bagged in either paper bags or BPI Certified compostable plastic bags. Yard waste can be loose in the cart.

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