The city of Madison first started offering recycling services in September 1968. Bryan Johnson, the city’s Recycling Coordinator, says that makes our recycling program one of the oldest in the nation.
“As far as municipal curbside pick-up, we’re older than everybody else because we’re two years older than Earth Day, we started picking up newspapers in 1968,” Johnson says.
In 1976, the city began curbside collection and recycling of appliances, which continues to this day. Four years later the city began collecting yard waste, and in 1987 the city launched a glass recycling program.
Looking ahead to the future, the city is eyeing the best method to properly dispose of food scraps. City leaders have commissioned a study to consider an “anaerobic digester”– which would convert food waste into natural gas.
With the city’s long recycling history and future plans has come an equally robust guide for how to handle waste — the Recyclopedia. As Johnson explains, the biennial guidebook contains information on everything from electronics recycling to invasive insect species.
“Unfortunately as our stuff gets more complicated, the book keeps getting longer,” he says. “It talks about brush, yard waste, there’s a couple pages dedicated to our urban forestry division — which just became part of the streets division. It’s a really useful guidebook of most of the services provided by the streets division.”
The guide also has a detachable sheet illustrating what can and can’t go in your recycling bins. Johnson says that pull-out is also available in a three-by-five magnet, available by request from the city.
“Page nine would be perfect to put on your fridge as a recycling guide,” Johnson says. “It’s simple pictures on the front and on the reverse side is a word-heavy explanation of what you can put in your recycling cart.”
Johnson says there are a few changes from the 2019 recyclopedia. Notably, the city has recently stopped collecting plastic bags. Instead, residents can now recycle their plastic bags at one of nearly two dozen area retailers and grocery stores.
The city’s 2021 Recyclopedia is available online at the City of Madison’s website. Quick reference guides are also available in Spanish, Hmong and Chinese. For residents who prefer hard copy, printed versions are available upon request from the city’s streets division.
Just be sure you recycle it when the 2023 edition comes out.
(PHOTO c/o City of Madison)