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Garbage and Recycling Guidelines

All garbage must be in bags. Do not place loose garbage in the cart. This helps prevent litter, helps to not attact wildlife, and helps keep our neighborhoods clean. Bulky items that do not fit in the garbage cart and construction and demolition waste have separate guidelines.

Some items are banned from the landfill. Do NOT put these items in your garbage cart or out for garbage collection.

Garbage Guidelines

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Paper, cardboard, metal cans, glass jars, plastic bottles, jugs, and tubs marked with #1, #2, and #5 must be placed in your recycling cart or taken to Drop Off Centers.


Appliances including air conditioners, boilers, clothes washers and dryers, dehumidifiers, freezers, furnaces, microwaves, refrigerators, stoves, ovens, and water heaters can be taken to Drop Off Centers.

Branches and Brush

Branches and brush must be collected separately. Guidelines and collection requests.


Electronics including computers, laptops, monitors, TVs, DVD players, cell phones, and more can be taken to Drop Off Centers.

Grass Clippings

Grass clippings must be left on your lawn or brought to Drop Off Centers. This also applies to weeds and garden debris.

Hazardous Waste

Hazardous Waste including gasoline, paint thinner, antifreeze and more is managed by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD). Visit MMSD online or call 225-2066.


Leaves must be collected separately using the fall leaf collection or taken to Drop Off Centers for composting.


Tires can be taken to Drop Off Centers.

Recycling Guidelines

Recycling is required by State law and City ordinance. Learn more about Milwaukee's recycling program.

Recyclables should be loose in the bin or cart. Do NOT place recyclables in plastic bags as the bags make sorting more difficult and the plastic can get wrapped around equipment.

Help prevent squirrels from wanting to get what is in your cart - rinse food waste out of recyclables before putting them in the bin.

Accepted Item Examples:

Aluminum and steel cans, food and beverage cartons, glass bottle and jars, cereal boxes, newspaper, magazines and mail, flattened cardboard, and paper tubes, and plastic kitchen, laundry, and bath bottles and containers. 

Image of recycling guidelines in English

Image of Contaminant Guidelines in Spanish

The following items are NOT allowed in your curbside recycling cart:

  • Plastic bags and wraps
  • Fire hazards (i.e. batteries, propane tanks)
  • Tanglers (i.e. hoses, wire, cords, etc.)
  • Needles and Sharps
  • Scrap metal (including car rotors)
  • Styrofoam & Plastic #3, #4, #6, & #7
  • Window glass, mirrors, and bulbs
  • Wood including furniture
  • Hazardous chemicals
  • Ceramics including dish ware and drinking glasses
  • Food and yard waste
  • Diapers

Cart Care and Replacement Policies

Carts are City of Milwaukee property. The following suggestions will help the cart have a long service life.

  • Write the address on the cart to help keep track of the cart, especially in tight alleys.
  • Only place bagged garbage in the garbage cart. This helps deter wildlife from wanting to enter the cart as well as prevents litter in the neighborhood.
  • Recyclables must not be bagged. To help deter wildlife from wanting to enter the cart be sure to rinse food debris from recyclables.
  • If something spills inside the cart consider putting some dish soap in the bottom and filling with several gallons of water from a garden hose. Swishing around the water will help remove a majority of the debris. Let the inside of the cart dry in the hot sun. This task is best saved for a warm summer day.
  • For general deodorizing of carts (best done after cleaning), use a mild bleach-water solution in a spray bottle. Lightly spray the inside of the cart and let it air dry.
  • If wildlife has put a small hole in the cart, fill an old sock with moth balls, tie it to the cart's handle, and feed the sock into the cart. This will deter the animals from coming back.
  • If a cart repair or replacement is needed, City crews will leave a tag on your cart with instructions on how to request this service. To limit the public investment in new cart inventory, a cart that is still serviceable will not be replaced. Rodent hole damage does not qualify for replacement. If you were instructed to request a new cart, call 286-CITY or use the online service request to select Garbage Cart - Damaged or Recycling Cart Damaged.