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Organics Collection Program (Pilot)

The organics collection pilot began collections in the fall of 2016 and continues today in the pilot zones. To learn more about the results from the first year of operations, read the report or watch the presentation to Common Council.


photo of organic materials, logos, and phrase "because what you have isn't waste"

This pilot program provides for the collection and composting of food waste and yard debris from a third, brown cart. Program participants pay a monthly fee ($12.75) for this additional, optional service.

The benefits of this type of service include

  • Convenience. Items like grass clippings that previously needed to be taken to a Drop Off Center if not handled on the property can now be collected from the home.

  • Reduce waste sent to the landfill. 3 households composting food waste for 1 year equals 1 ton of food that won't go to the landfill.

  • Create healthy soils. Compost is a wonderful, nutrient-rich, natural soil amendment.


The pilot is currently limited to a geographic region that encompasses the Bay View, East Side, Riverwest, and surrounding neighborhoods living in 1 - 4 unit buildings or condos who currently receive City collection. See eligibility map.

If you are interested in participating if more spots becomes available, complete the interest form to be placed on the waiting list.

Choosing not to participate? Please take this 1 question survey for non-participants.

Collection & Processing Service: Request for Proposals Q & A 

Is the organics pilot program ending?

  • The current organics pilot program is continuing and does not have an end date. In January of this year, the Department of Public Works (DPW) issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) seeking proposals for an organics collection and processing service.

What is the goal of the RFP?

  • DPW’s goal in releasing this RFP is to expand organics collection City-wide and provide equitable access to all residents by 2025, giving all an opportunity to participate in another form of organics diversion from landfill, complementing the tools of waste prevention, food donation, backyard composting, and in-sink disposer units .

What materials would a new program accept?

  • Proposals for food waste only, yard waste only, and food mixed with yard waste are all allowed for submission. As the City’s ultimate goal is landfill diversion, allowing multiple options for organic collection expands possibilities for vendor participation. In recognizing limitations in the current market regionally, the RFP’s five-year contract term allows for investment in organics processing infrastructure which is less likely to happen in the absence of a long term contract.

How will current pilot program subscribers be affected?

  • In the RFP, the current pilot zone would be the first with access to the city-wide program, with current subscribers given the opportunity to opt into a program if one is implemented as a result of this RFP process. If a change is to occur, subscribers will have ample time to review the proposed program and determine if they would like to subscribe to it.

Program Information

Program participants receive a cart for the collection of their materials, a kitchen caddy, and helpful information.

  • Acceptable Materials List. Food waste must be bagged in paper bags. Yard debris can be loose in the cart. No material outside the cart will be collected. Compostable bags and products not accepted.
    photo of brown organics cart, kitchen caddy, and program logos
  • Collection Schedule. Collection is weekly April - November and every-other-week December - March.
    • Route 1 - Tuesday (Bay View area neighborhoods)
    • Route 2 - Monday (Bay View area neighborhoods)
    • Route 3 - Wednesday (East Side area neighborhoods)
    • Route 4 - Friday (Riverwest area neighborhoods)

Material is collected by a private hauler, Compost Crusader, and is then delivered to Blue Ribbon Organics. There, the facility processes the material for 4 - 6 months. Finally, it is screened and sold as finished compost in bulk as well as in local stores.

Non-program Services and Resources

Those not opting to participate in this program can still take advantage of these other programs, services, and information.

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.


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 paper bags. Yard waste can be loose in the cart.

How-To Videos

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