Northeast Wisconsin
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • April 2015
Written by 

It’s spring cleaning time!

Does the warmer weather of April have you wanting to spring clean your house and garage? Don’t just put everything in a big black garbage bag at the curb — properly handle these materials for your personal protection and the protection of the environment.


Going through your home office is bound to yield considerable paper materials. Sure, you know you should recycle office papers, but what about identify theft?

The American Forest and Paper Association advises you to “Think before you shred.” Only shred documents with sensitive information. Shredding shortens paper fibers. Recycling whole pieces of paper keeps the fibers long, strong and ready to be made into new paper and other products. Examples of papers that can go right into the recycling bin without shredding include unused return envelopes, folders, school papers (math worksheets, spelling lists, etc.), cards, books, magazines, and any other office/school papers or mail without personally identifiable information. Items that should be shredded include employee pay stubs, bank statements, investment transactions, preapproved credit card applications, medical records, tax forms and any paperwork with social security or credit card numbers.

When it is necessary to shred documents, place a paper bag under your shredder. Once full, staple the bag shut at the top to prevent the shreds from coming out of your bag. Loose paper shreds are very difficult for your recycling center to capture and process, due to their small size.

Another option often found during spring cleaning is “free shredding day.” Banks, credit unions and other institutions may offer a special day or week when customers can bring confidential documents for free onsite shredding.

Electronics and appliances

Perhaps your basement cleaning has turned up a forgotten VCR, old tube TV or a broken dehumidifier? These items actually need to be recycled, as state law prohibits their disposal in the regular garbage. The following items are defined as “electronics” and are required to be recycled: televisions, cell phones, computers (desktops, laptops, notebooks, tablets), monitors, scanners, printers (including those which fax and scan), DVD players, VCRs, DVRs (and any other video players), external hard drives, fax machines, flash drives/USBs, keyboards, speakers, mice and other items that plug into a computer. While not specifically listed in the state’s recycling program, called E-Cycle Wisconsin, other similar items such as radios or video game systems are often recycled by entities that recycle the listed electronics as well.

Many retail electronic stores accept electronics for recycling. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources maintains a registry of electronics collections locations at

Appliances are another category of materials that cannot go into the landfill and need to be recycled. The following items are defined as “appliances”: air conditioners, washers, dryers, dishwashers, freezers, refrigerators, ovens, stoves, microwaves, water heaters, furnaces, boilers and dehumidifiers. Many scrap metal dealers accept appliances for recycling due to the large steel component, and often municipalities will provide collection opportunities as well. The above devices are considered major appliances. But similarly to electronics, items not listed, including small appliances such as toasters or slow cookers may also be accepted for recycling.

Of course if your electronics or appliances are in good condition, consider reuse first and donate to an organization that accepts your item!

Chemicals and hazardous materials

Did you uncover old pool chemicals, spray paint or gasoline in cleaning your garage? Perhaps some paint thinner, varnish, weed killers or pesticides? All of these items are considered household hazardous materials and should be managed properly. With the arrival of spring, many counties will begin offering Clean Sweep programs or opening their permanent, seasonal facilities for the acceptance of these materials. These substances can be toxic, flammable, reactive or corrosive and should not be placed in the regular garbage. Contact your local solid waste, health department or municipal office for upcoming Clean Sweep or household hazardous material collection days.

References: “Paper Shredding & Recycling.” Paper Recycles.

“Wisconsin Recycles.” Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Waste and Materials Management.

Jennifer Semrau

Jennifer Semrau is the recycling specialist for Winnebago County Solid Waste in Oshkosh, overseeing the county’s recycling, hazardous material, container rental and sales/marketing programs. She is also the former president of the Associated Recyclers of Wisconsin and recipient of the 2013 Christy Dixon Recycler of the Year award. For more information, visit, call 920-232-1850 or “like” them on Facebook at

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