Create Less Waste
When organic materials break down in a landfill, they produce a landfill gas made up of methane and carbon dioxide. Landfills produce the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the U.S.
Landfills also take up a lot of space that was once habitat for wildlife. Explore resources and tips for reducing waste and recovering resources.
Planning an event? The NEW City of Milwaukee Green Events Guide can help you take the first steps towards a conscious community event that protects the environment.
The best way to manage waste is to not produce it. Refuse items that are quickly thrown away. Buy durable goods that are well-built or offer good warranties. These last longer, save you money, and help keep items out of the landfill.
If possible, buy commonly used items in bulk and try to purchase items with minimal packaging or recyclable packaging. Avoid single-use plastics, like straws, utensils, bags, plates, and water bottles. Instead, use reusable or compostable options.
- Take part in Milwaukee Recycles’ Refuse Challenge to refuse disposable items: carry a reusable mug or water bottle, bring reusable bags, and have your own utensils and containers.
- Work with Plastic-Free MKE, a local resource that offers education, advocacy, and support for neighborhoods, restaurants and events to eliminate single-use plastics in the city.
- Conduct a self-assessment using the Urban Sustainability Directors Network's Sustainable Consumption Toolkit.
- Host trash audits by collecting all trash, recyclables, and compostable items for a period of time to analyze what type of waste you produce. Identify a plan for reducing garbage produced each month.
Think about how you can swap out single-use items for items that can be used over and over again. Switch to a reusable water bottle or shopping bags in place of plastic options.
Instead of buying something new, consider if a neighbor, family member, or local store might have something gently used you can try instead. Reusing items keeps them out of the landfill and saves you money. Part of reusing involves making repairs where necessary.
Recycling allows new products to be made from the old through reprocessing and remanufacturing. It is good for the environment, supports local jobs, and saves the City money that covers the costs associated with disposal.
Recycling is required by the law in Wisconsin and under City Ordinance in Milwaukee. Milwaukee Recycles is the city’s local recycling program that services all 1-4 family residences. Apartment buildings with 5+ units, businesses, organizations and others must provide their own recycling.
- Share information with neighbors about how to recycle. Use Milwaukee Recycles’ Curbside Recycling Guide, available in three languages.
- Organize collections of difficult recyclable materials. Plastic bags and film can go to grocery stores. Scrap metal, appliances, antifreeze, car batteries, used motor oil and filters, tires, electronics, cooking oil, curbside recyclables, and large corrugated cardboard can go to the City's Drop Off Centers.
- Earth911 offers recycling solutions for additional or unusual items. Milwaukee Recycles' Directory also allows you to search non-curbside items and where they go.
- Tour the Materials Recovery Facility and see where recyclables go. Free adult tours are available twice a month, and school group programs are also available. Keep Greater Milwaukee Beautiful has additional educational programming on topics for all ages.
- If you DO NOT have a recycling or have overflowing bins, contact your landlord/property manager. Anonymous complaints can be filed at 1-414-286-2489.
Composting is an easy, inexpensive alternative to landfills that puts organic waste to use to help create healthy soil. Wisconsin law prohibits disposal of yard materials in landfills, which includes leaves, grass clippings, brush, and any pieces of wood under 6 inches in diameter.
Try hot and cold composting, vermicomposting, or grasscycling. You can compost in the following ways: 1) Use individual compost bins in your home or apartment, 2) Participate in a curbside organics collection service, or 3) Collect waste and take it to a drop off site.
Free Composting Services through the City of Milwaukee:
Free leaf collection service is offered in the fall. Residents rake their leaves into curb lanes for collection to be composted. You can include yard debris on top of leaf piles, but do not bag it. An alternative to this service is leaf mulching, or shredding leaves with a lawn mower to allow the nutrients to return right to the soil. Brush collection can be from April-November.
Milwaukee Drop Off Centers allow for the safe disposal and recycling of a wide variety of items, including compostable items. Fees do apply and are based on the volume of the load. Centers are located at 3879 W. Lincoln Ave. and 6660 N. Industrial Rd. and are open from 7 a.m. – 3 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday during winter and Tuesday-Sunday in summer.