Q: What am I allowed to recycle, and is there somewhere I can drop off items that are not recyclable?
A: It depends on where you live, says Bryan Johnson, recycling coordinator for the city of Madison.
“Recycling is a regional thing,” Johnson said. “It can be complicated. It can be tricky.”
In some cities, the streets division or public works department takes care of all of the recycling, Johnson said. In others, private companies take care of recycling. And the rules are different depending on who picks up the recyclables, he added.
Madison, for instance, has a 28-page Recyclopedia that details everything residents need to know about recycling in the city. The guide can be found online at www.cityofmadison.com/streets/.
Johnson said a common mistake people make is “wish recycling”: putting items in the bins that they wish could be recycled but don’t actually belong, such as Styrofoam, clothes, hoses, ropes and electronics. He said Styrofoam can break apart into tiny pieces and contaminate other recyclables.
But some of these items can be taken to other locations. In Madison, residents can recycle Styrofoam, tires, scrap wood, scrap metal, clothes, batteries, rigid plastic items, leaves, and extension cords and other electronics by taking them to drop-off sites. Madison has two drop-off locations at 1501 W. Badger Road and 4602 Sycamore Ave.
Madison is also starting a pilot program for curbside food-scrap pick-up in a West Side neighborhood. And there’s a compost drop-off location at 7102 Highway 12-18 in Madison.
Other locations that might take various “wish recyclables” include Goodwill, Best Buy, Ace Hardware, Kohl’s and Walmart. A full list of businesses that offer recycling in Dane County can be found at go.madison.com/recycle-businesses.
Johnson said Wisconsinites should contact their local municipality to see what the rules are in their city.
“There will be options available, it’s just a matter of finding them,” Johnson said.