Northeast Wisconsin
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • January 2016
Written by 

Eco-friendly New Year’s resolution: Recycle more, landfill less

Each January people make resolutions to lose weight, eat better, exercise more or spend less. And unfortunately, by February, many of those well-meaning resolutions have fallen by the wayside. The key is to make small changes, which can become a habit. That holds true for all of the above (eat just one more serving of vegetables each day or start putting a quarter or dollar in a jar each day). But if you are looking for an eco-friendly New Year’s resolution, here are some easy tips that can quickly become a habit — and benefit the earth!

Recycle more

Seems simple enough, but the key is understanding what you can recycle locally. Luckily if you live in northeast Wisconsin, you can recycle nearly all paper, cardboard, bottles and containers! Did you know you can recycle all of these things?

  • Plastic clamshells that held berries or bakery
  • Empty aerosol cans if they didn’t contain a pesticide (remove cap/nozzle)
  • Plastic bottles from your bathroom (shampoo, soap, cleaners, etc.)
  • Metal lids from glass jars
  • Yogurt, sour cream, margarine and other dairy containers
  • Junk mail, including plastic window envelopes and “shiny” paper
  • Plastic deli containers (potato salad, coleslaw, dips, etc.)
  • Paper tubes from paper towels and toilet paper
  • Any type of book (phone books, soft or hard cover books)
  • Cartons (milk, juice, soup, wine, soy milk, etc.)

Landfill less

Landfilling less can be accomplished in a number of ways. Being conscientious at the store about packaging (buying in bulk for less overall packaging or selecting a product in a locally recyclable container) or purchasing from a thrift store or second-hand shop helps yield less waste. Further, your recycling center produces waste when consumers accidentally place items in their recycling stream, which are not recyclable. If an item cannot be recovered locally, it is better for the homeowner to place the material in their trash, instead of it traveling to the recycling center first and then going to the landfill. So it’s also important to remember a few things that cannot be recycled in northeast Wisconsin.

Please do not recycle curbside:

  • Styrofoam (packing peanuts, stiff foam from around electronics, egg cartons, etc.)
  • Plastic motor oil bottles (oil contaminates the plastic)
  • Paper contaminated with food or grease (pizza boxes)
  • Ceramics, dishes, window glass (not the same type of glass as bottles/jars)
  • Plastic bags, electrical cords, rope/twine (don’t bundle paper)

Plastic bags are recyclable at retail locations (grocery/mass merchandise stores). Typically, there are kiosks located at or near the front of the store for plastic bag recycling. Unfortunately plastic bags become too dirty and torn to be recovered in curbside collections. Further, plastic bags, cords and rope/twine can wrap around the equipment used to process recycling, causing significant maintenance issues.

Thank you for doing your part this January, and every month, to help recycling thrive! This year, resolve to recycle more, landfill less. For more information, go to


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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