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Food Waste and Yard Debris

Want to start composting? Pre-order a compost bin during our 2020 sale (on now!) or attend one of six Introduction to Backyard Composting classes hosted in partnership with Keep Greater Milwaukee Beautiful and the Milwaukee Public Library.

Food waste and yard debris are organic materials and make up to 24% of the waste stream. While some items (grass, leaves, garden trimmings, and brush) are banned from Wisconsin landfills by State law, all of these items can be kept out of landfills to conserve natural resources and help create healthier soil through composting.

Backyard composting is a great way to handle yard debris or a combination of food waste and yard debris. To support backyard composters, the City holds an annual Compost Bin and Rain Barrel Sale.

Food Waste

Food waste is a large part of our waste stream that is being wasted by sending it to the landfill. Learn more about how you can reduce the amount of food waste sent to the landfill by reducing waste, using garbage disposals, composting in your yard or by dropping materials off at a community compost site, or participating in the City's Organics Collection Pilot Program.

Yard Debris

Yard Debris or yard waste is a broad category of waste that describes a variety of items that are banned from the landfill due to a State law that became effective July 1, 1993. Yard waste is easily composted and, if allowed to be landfilled, would unnecessarily consume valuable landfill space and emit methane gas.

Items that cannot be placed in your garbage cart include: branches and brush, grass clippings, weeds, garden debris, and "soft-bodied, green herbaceous material less than one inch in diameter."

Branches and Brush

  • Branches have a diameter of 6" or less
  • December - March; Take items to a Drop off Center
  • April - November; Curbside collection available for up to 2 cubic yards of properly set out material. Call 286-CITY to arrange a pickup.

Grass Clippings

  • Leave them on the lawn to decompose and nourish the soil or compost
  • Accepted at Drop off Centers
  • Grass clippings are not collected curbside at any time and it is a violation of City ordinance to blow or move them into the street.


Flowers and floral arrangements are exempt from the state yard waste ban. Compost them or bag them and place in the garbage cart.

Garden Debris and Weeds

Garden debris includes material from vegetable and flower gardens like tomato vines, dead plants, corn and sunflower stalks, and weeds.

  • Compost items
  • Take items to a Drop of Center
  • Collect until fall leaf collection. Garden debris can be placed on top of leaves during the official City fall leaf collection. Weeds and garden debris are not collected any other time.


  • Using your lawn mower, mulch the leaves and let them return to the soil
  • Compost
  • Take to a Drop of Center
  • The City offers a Fall Leaf Collection. Leaves are only collected at this time.