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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Thursday, December 09, 2021

Sun shines through the trees as naturalist Amy Jo Dusick leads members of the public on a spring nature walk at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum during Earth Day on April 22, 2018. 

City of Madison set to no longer accept plastic bags for recycling

The City of Madison Streets Division announced they will no longer accept plastic film and bags as recyclable materials Tuesday. 

Residents should no longer place plastic film or bags in recycling bins or at curbside drop-off sites, according to a news release issued by the city of Madison. As an alternative, residents are encouraged to bring plastic materials to retailers that maintain plastic film and bag recycling programs, such as Target and Pick n’ Save.

Recycling of plastic materials has presented a long standing issue for recyclable sorting systems, officials said. Plastic can easily become tangled in sorting system machinery, which ultimately causes shutdowns at processing centers, according to the news release.

“We were one of the few places in the country that was trying to have plastic bags on the cart like that,” City of Madison Recycling Coordinator Bryan Johnson told Channel 3000. “What happens in the recycling facilities is they get wrapped around the screen, they clog robots, there’s all sorts of problems.”

Prior to the restriction, officials allowed bundled bags of plastic materials to be recycled because they were common in resident’s homes. Additionally, the city’s processor, Pellitteri Waste Systems, previously sold the plastic bags that were collected throughout the city.

However, due to issues with contamination, the plastic bags can no longer be sold, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. 

“As China stopped importing lower grade film, the markets started to dry up, and consequently now only clean aggregated plastic film is marketable,” Pellitteri Waste Systems Vice President Danielle Pellitteri told the Wisconsin State Journal.

City officials announced in the newsletter that they plan to continue work with Pellitteri Waste Systems to pursue other methods of recycling plastic. However, the bundled bags will likely not return to the collection carts, according to the news release. 

Due to Wisconsin Act 302, which prohibits municipalities from banning plastic bags, City of Madison officials explained that they feel the best way to eliminate plastic waste is for residents to use reusable or easily-recyclable paper bags. Officials additionally recommend that residents find ways to reuse plastic bags instead of disposing of them after a single use, such as by donating them to local food pantries. 

“Right now in the City of Madison, it’s 18.9% of what’s in our recycling is trash and shouldn’t be there,” Johnson told Channel 3000.

To learn more about which materials can and cannot be accepted in Madison recycling bins, visit

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