Just Ask Us: How has the City of Madison recycling program changed? | Just Ask Us


Q: How has the City of Madison recycling program changed? 

Across the country, several recycling programs have been changed or canceled because the revenue from recycling is low right now, Johnson said, and it all started with China.

Johnson said China had been a big consumer of the world’s scrap materials until, in 2017, China announced its new purity restrictions on materials it would accept in an effort to lessen contamination and not have to take as much of the world’s trash overall.

“Imported scrap had to be very clean,” Johnson said. “So clean, that many U.S. recyclers could not hit those purity standards with the material they were collecting.”

That is why it is important for Madison residents to recycle the right way.

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“The way for us to beat these tough market conditions is to have clean material that’s easy on the open market to sell,” Johnson said.

There has been some investment in the idea that more materials collected domestically will also be processed domestically, Johnson said, but ideas take time to come to fruition.

In the meantime, residents should start making sure an item is a “good recyclable” before placing it in the bin instead of placing items in the bin that they hope are recyclable.

Johnson said not everything made from plastic is recyclable in the city’s curbside collection system. For example, it is important to empty and flatten cardboard boxes that come in the mail filled with non-recyclable plastic before recycling the boxes.

For more information on recycling and to find out what items are good recyclables, visit cityofmadison.com/recycling. Residents can also pick up a copy of the Recyclopedia at any Madison Public Library branch or find it online on the Streets Division website.

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