Display featuring different methods of waste reduction at sustain-a-bash 2017.

Waste Reduction

Housing prioritizes keeping items out of the landfill through a variety of recycling, compost, reuse and donation initiatives.

Recycling Guidelines

Separating material allows campus to gain revenue from recycling. UW-Madison’s system differs from the City of Madison’s single-stream system. City residents (most off-campus apartments) are able to put all recyclables in one bin. Learn to sort material using the Housing Recycling Guide.


University Housing is proud of our composting efforts over the years. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the campus-wide food waste collection program has been suspended until further notice. To find out more, please visit The Office of Sustainability Compost website. https://sustainability.wisc.edu/composting/

Specialty Recycling

UW-Madison operates a specialty item-recycling program to provide students, faculty, and staff recycling locations to dispose of their waste responsibly.  Items for recycling include batteries, mixed media, ink cartridges, eyeglasses and small electronics. Recycling locations are available across campus – visit Sellery and Holt to recycle specialty items in Housing.

Donations and Surplus

When completing renovations, Housing strives to minimize the amount of material sent to the landfill. Housing partners with UW SWAP to repurpose items by sending them to other campus departments, non-profits, and the community. This program keeps over 250,000 pounds of material out of the landfill each year, while supporting the missions of Housing’s community partners. If your organization is interested in partnering, please fill out this form.

Sustainability Move Out

Meeting Housing’s core value of stewardship, Housing helps students say goodbye sustainably by collaborating with students, staff, and campus and community organizations to donate or recycle items they no longer need. Recycling and donation locations are set up near residence halls to allow residents and their families convenient access to donation and recycling opportunities during move out. The event is volunteer run and relies on the hard work of campus volunteers to divert as much waste as possible. Click here to learn more about Sustainability Move Out.

Man moving piece of furniture

Waste and Recycling FAQs

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Should you crush your recycling to make more space?

No! Place your recycling in the recycling bin the same way you bought it. Crushed cans and boxes are less likely to be recycled because they are harder for staff to pick them out of the line and/or they slip through cracks and crevices during the process.

Do I need to remove labels around aluminum cans?

Nope, they typically fall off during the recycling process, so there’s no need to perform the extra step.

Can I recycle my plastic bags?

Yup! But you can only do this at participating store drop off locations! Plastic bags and film cannot be recycled in your regular co-mingle recycling. You can bring clean, dry retail bags, food storage bags, bread bags, newspaper bags, produce bags, plastic air pillows, and plastic bag packaging to participating stores for recycling.

How should I dispose of old medicine?

Never flush medicine down the toilet, take old and unwanted medication to a MedDrop box, conveniently located in many places throughout the Madison area.

Can you recycle toothpaste, toothbrushes, mouthwash, and floss?

Yes you can! Artisan Dental, located in Madison, accepts toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes, dental floss containers and mouthwash containers for recycling. Artisan Dental is located at 10 N. Livingston St. Suite 301.

Can I recycle wine corks?

Yes, the Whole Foods Market at 3313 University Avenue accepts wine corks.

Where do I recycle my vehicle battery?

You can recycle them at any retailer that sells them. You can also bring them to the City of Madison’s self help drop­off sites at 1501 W.  Badger Road and 4602 Sycamore Avenue. You can also find lead acid batteries in some computer, medical, lighting, or electronic devices. The City of Madison drop­off sites also accept these lead acid batteries.

How can I recycle my phonebook? How can I stop receiving phonebooks?

In order to recycle your phonebook, simply place it in your commingle recycling bin. If you don’t want to receive a phonebook anymore, you can easily unenroll.

What do I do with my old t­shirts or other linens?

If they are in good condition, donate them at a local thrift store. If tiems are heavily worn use them as rags or bring them to Goodwill or St. Vincent de Paul, they will recycle your textiles!

Make an Impact

  • Curb contamination! Pay close attention to recycling guides to know what bin items belong in.
    • NO plastics in the compost!
    • Open and check your containers before recycling or composting them to remove silverware and other items that cannot be recycled or composted.
  • Donate clothing at Dejope, Ogg, or Helen C. White Library. Check out off-campus donation sites at Vincent de Paul, Goodwill, or Salvation Army.
  • For UW staff: use the SWAP Surplus Request Form to repurpose items and keep them out of the landfill. Shop SWAP before purchasing new items.
  • When possible, buy secondhand instead of new.
  • Recycle items in the same form you bought them in- for example, crushed cans are less likely to be recycled.
  • Use resuble bags while shopping. If you need to use plastic, recycle bags at one of these locations.
  • Rip pizza boxes in half to recycle the clean non-greasy top and to trash the greasy cardboard bottom.
  • Do not flush medicine down the toilet, take old and unwanted medication to a MedDrop box.