Holiday Recycling

 In Green Committee

City of Milwaukee Offers Recycling, “E-Cycling”, and Waste
Reduction Tips For the Holidays

The holidays usually mean lots of leftovers, cans, bottles, gift boxes, wrapping paper and of course, the tree!  As the average American increases her/his waste by 25% between Thanksgiving and the New Year, the City of Milwaukee Department of Public Works encourages all City residents to reduce and recycle the usual bottles, cans and cardboard boxes.  But what about those unique holiday items?

What are some easy waste reduction strategies for the holidays?

  • Choose reusable plates, cups, and utensils for holiday gatherings
  • Make recycling easy for guests by putting out a recycling receptacle next to your garbage can
  • Use a reusable bag while shopping
  • Get creative with wrapping. Reuse newspapers or paper grocery bags as gift wrap. Incorporate the wrapping into the gift, like giving kitchen tools wrapped in a hand towel. Also reuse gift bags and ribbons from previous years
  • Support recycling by purchasing gift wrap and holiday cards made from post-consumer recycled paper.

If every household in Milwaukee reused one yard of ribbon, the saved ribbon could stretch from Milwaukee to Green Bay.

Which holiday items can be recycled?

  • Greeting cards and wrapping paper can be recycled as long as they are free of ribbons, foil, and other non-paper items
  • Cardboard gift boxes and packaging can be flattened and recycled, or save them to re-use or for storage
  • Gift bags, tissue paper, ribbons and bows are NOT recyclable.  Re-use them next year and save money and room in the landfill.

How about old electronics?

  • The City of Milwaukee DOES NOT accept old TVs, computers, tablets, scanners, printers, cell phones and other electronics in either the garbage cart or the recycling cart
  • “E-cycle” your old electronics at no charge by taking them to a City Self Help Center. They also may be dropped off at other E-Cycle Wisconsin locations.  To find an electronics site near you, visit
  • The “e-cycling” process recovers valuable materials from old electronics and keeps hazardous pollutants out of the environment
  • Go to to learn more.

How about disposing of a real Christmas tree and old lights?

  • You can recycle your tree at the WH Green Committee Mulchfest on January 9th, 1PM – 4PM at the Washington Park Parking Lot on 40th Street –
  • After the holidays, take your real tree to one of the City’s Self Help Centers to be composted or mulched. Be sure to remove all lights and decorations first – the tree must be “naked”
  • Or place the tree at your regular garbage collection site (alley or curb) for pick-up by DPW crews. Trees picked up by crews will be landfilled
  • To recycle old Christmas lights, go to for more information. Get a coupon for 15% off  HolidayLEDs Christmas lights
  • Note that St. Sebastian’s also collects old Christmas tree lights!
  • DO NOT place old Christmas lights in the recycling cart.

Which containers are recyclable?

  • Containers marked with “#1, #2, #4, and #5”  – milk, juice and soup cartons, plastic bottles and jugs – are all recyclable. Please empty and rinse them before placing them in the recycling cart
  • Worn out metal pots and pans, clean aluminum foil and baking pans can be recycled.

Recycling cart full? 

  • Place your extra recyclables in a clear bag and set them next to your recycling cart
  • Alternative: Bring extra recyclables to a City Self Help Center.

Go to for more information on acceptable materials for recycling in the City of Milwaukee.

For information on the City’s Self Help Centers (hours, locations, what is acceptable, etc.), go to The centers will be closed on December 24, 25, 31 and January 1.

City residents can use to determine their next scheduled garbage and recycling dates.  There will be no garbage or recycling pick-up on December 24, 25, 31 and January 1.

Residents can also call (414) 286-CITY (-2489) for more information.

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