DNR offering tips on reducing, reusing, recycling holiday waste

Courtesy of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

WISCONSIN – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is offering tips to help families save money, reduce waste and keep recycling and trash workers safe during upcoming holidays.

“We know recycling can be confusing,” said Jennifer Semrau, DNR Waste Diversion and Recycling Coordinator. “But there are some basic tips people can use to make tackling holiday waste less overwhelming. Knowing the right thing to do with things like batteries and light strings can prevent damage to recycling facilities and keep workers safe.”

What should go in your recycling bin

Many items can be recycled anywhere in Wisconsin. These items, which the state bans from landfills, include:

  • Cardboard. Flatten boxes before putting them in carts or bins so that recycling equipment can handle them properly
  • Newspaper
  • Magazines
  • Office paper
  • Plastic #1 and #2 containers
  • Aluminum cans
  • Steel (tin) cans
  • Glass bottles and jars

Wrapping paper that can be torn and doesn’t have any glitter, foil or other adornments can be recycled in the majority of programs in Wisconsin.

Be sure the items are empty of any liquids and excess gunk, but you don’t need to wash them with soap or put them through the dishwasher. For cans or bottles going into a curbside recycling cart or container, don’t crush or flatten them – this makes it harder for equipment at recycling facilities to recognize and properly sort things like aluminum cans.

Most communities include junk mail and other mixed paper, such as cereal boxes. Check locally for a complete list, and don’t rely on packaging labels. Keep in mind that what you can recycle at a relative’s home may be different than what you can recycle at your own.

What should not go in your recycling bin

Some items can cause serious problems at recycling facilities that aren’t designed to handle them, including a risk of fire and worker injury. Many of these can be recycled at drop-off sites but should not go in curbside recycling bins or carts.

These include:

  • Tissue paper
  • Holiday light strings, cords and other “tanglers.” At modern recycling facilities, these get wrapped around equipment, meaning a facility has to be shut down for workers to cut the material loose. Some retailers, electronics recyclers and communities offer seasonal recycling programs for light strings. If that’s not an option, put broken lights in the trash.
  • Plastic bags, plastic film and wrap. These also get tangled in recycling equipment. Bagged recyclables also cause problems because workers can’t be sure what’s inside. Empty cans, bottles and other recyclables into your bin or cart, then put the bag in the trash. You can take many types of clean, dry plastic bags and wrap to store drop-off locations. Learn more about reducing, reusing and recycling plastic bags and wrap on the DNR’s recycling plastic bags webpage at www.dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/Recycling/bags.html.
  • Batteries and electronics. Recycling facilities that manage cans, bottles and cardboard and waste facilities that manage household garbage aren’t set up to handle batteries and electronics. Rechargeable batteries cause fires in collection trucks and facilities if they are damaged by equipment, and many electronics contain hazardous materials. Find more information on how to recycle batteries and electronics, including drop-off site locations, on the DNR’s electronics recycling webpage at www.dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/Ecycle.

For more information about what can and can’t be recycled, visit the DNR’s What to Recycle in Wisconsin webpage at www.dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/Recycling/Banned.html.

Find more information on reducing household waste during the holidays on the DNR’s Recycling and Waste reduction webpage at www.dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/Recycling/Tips.html.

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