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What to recycle in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, you cannot put many recyclable or compostable items in the trash. Wisconsin's recycling law bans the landfilling or incineration of these materials to conserve valuable resources. These disposal bans went into effect in several stages, beginning in the 1990s. Two new bans took effect in 2010 and 2011, covering electronics and used oil filters. Note that some local ordinances may require additional materials to be recycled.

Many local recycling programs and drop-off centers accept additional materials for recycling, so be sure to check with your local program or recycling hauler for a complete list of what can be recycled.

Recyclable materials banned from disposal in Wisconsin

Download a flier [PDF] with the full list of materials banned from landfill and incinerator disposal in Wisconsin.

Paper, cardboard and containers

  • Aluminum containers
  • Bi-metal containers (i.e. containers made from a combination of steel and aluminum)
  • Corrugated cardboard or other containerboard
  • Glass containers
  • Magazines and other materials printed on similar paper
  • Newspaper and other materials printed on newsprint
  • Office paper
  • Plastic containers #1 and #2 - milk jugs, laundry detergent bottles, soda and water bottles, etc.
  • Steel containers (tin cans)

Additional materials

*Yard waste may go to an approved compost facility or be incinerated with energy recovery. Brush may be burned at licensed woodburning facilities if reasonable alternatives are not available.

Composting in Wisconsin has more information on managing yard waste and other compostable materials.

Wisconsin's recycling law also bans the following materials from disposal, but the DNR allows them to be landfilled or incinerated because there are not yet adequate recycling markets. If, at some future time, the DNR determines that adequate markets for these plastics exist, they will be banned from disposal.

  • Foam polystyrene packaging (either designed for serving food or beverages), loose particles intended for packing (e.g. packing peanuts), or rigid materials shaped to hold and cushion a packaged article
  • Plastic containers #3 through #7. Many communities now accept these types of plastics, so check with your local recycling program or recycling hauler to find out if you can include them in your recycling.

Resources for recycling other materials

The Wisconsin Recycling Markets Directory [exit DNR] provides information about outlets for recycling various materials in Wisconsin. Users can search the list of recyclers for various materials, view information about the recyclers and suggest additional recyclers to include in the listing.

Earth911 [exit DNR] has a searchable directory of recycling options for several types of materials.

The following resources are for specific material types.

Exceptions for local recycling responsible units

The bans on paper, cardboard and containers do not apply to small amounts of the banned material mixed in with garbage being collected, treated and disposed of by a responsible unit (RU) with an effective recycling program. Even a good recycling program will not capture 100 percent of all potential recyclables, and some materials are unable to be recycled because of contamination. Examples include plastic jugs used for waste oil collection or newspaper used for cleaning. There are also exceptions for emergencies, unintentionally contaminated materials, the approved beneficial reuse of a material within a landfill, and certain plastics if recycling is not feasible.

RUs in two grandfathered waste-to-energy incinerator areas (La Crosse and Barron counties) are allowed to send recyclable paper (including newspaper, magazines and cardboard) and plastics to waste-to-energy incinerators, although local ordinances in those areas may require paper and plastic items to be recycled.

Last Revised: Thursday July 13 2017