What to Recycle - Recycle Right

Have you ever stood in front of your recycling cart trying to figure out if something should go in it? You're not sure whether it can be recycled but you hope it can, so you toss it in anyways. This is Wish-Cycling. The reality is, this practice can cause an entire load of good recyclables to become contaminated trash – and no one wishes for that! These might be items that need to be recycled through other methods (ex: electronics) or you may think there is a component that is recyclable and someone at the recycling center will separate it or figure it out. This is not true.

All items received at recycling centers need to be easily sorted into glass, plastic, metal or paper/cardboard. Learn more about what to recycle, what not to recycle and how to avoid contaminating the recycling stream.

How to Prepare Your Recyclables

  • All containers need to be empty of liquids and food 
  • Rinse off food residue 
  • Labels do not have to be removed
  • No need to crush cans or plastic bottles (small items are difficult to process)
  • Put plastic caps and lids back on plastic containers
  • Flatten cardboard boxes
  • Do not put recyclables inside plastic bags
    (recyclables should be disposed of loosely in the container)

Aluminum & Metal Cans

  • Food cans and lids: soup, vegetable, fruit, sauce, broth, etc.
  • Beverage cans
  • Pet food cans and lids
  • Metal caps or lids from bottles, jars and frozen juice

Glass Bottles & Jars 

  • Beverage bottles
  • Food jars (keep metal lids off)
  • No windows, dishes, Pyrex, ceramics, candle jars or light bulbs. This glass is of a different recipe and thus has a different melting point than the glass bottles and jars you can recycle in the recycling bin at home. 

Mixed Paper

  • Paper must be clean and dry
  • Newspaper and all inserts
  • Envelopes - with or without a window
  • Magazines and catalogs
  • Office paper and Post-It notes
  • Phone Books
  • Paperback Books (but not hardcover books - unless you take out just the inside pages)
  • Shredded Paper
    (put into a paper bag, fold the top and tape/staple it closed, label “shredded paper”)
  • No used or contaminated paper plates, cups, fast-food containers/wraps, napkins, towels, tissues, etc. (compost or throw in the trash)


  • Clean, corrugated cardboard (break down and flatten)
  • Cereal, granola bar, cake and other baking boxes (remove plastic liners)
  • Manila envelopes and file folders
  • Paper grocery bags
  • Waste Management, GFL, Murtha's and Hometown Disposal haulers also accept aseptic containers (made of layered paper with plastic coating) examples: juice boxes, milk and broth cartons
  • No pizza boxes (unless you rip the uncontaminated box top off and throw the greasy portion in the trash)

If you have large quantities of cardboard to recycle, call your curbside hauler to make arrangements for the additional pick-up


  • #1 and #2 bottles, tubs, jars and jug containers (put plastic lids and caps back on) 
  • These haulers also accept plastics #5 (ex: prescription bottles, yogurt tubs, etc.):
    Waste Management, Hometown Disposal, GFL, Murtha's and Olson Sanitation
  • Milk jugs, beverage bottles, laundry detergent (items with a neck)
  • NO styrofoam egg cartons, cups, plates or packaging material, and 
    NO Solo brand beverage cups - these are all #6
  • No plastic film or bags in curbside recycling
    • To recycle plastic bags and film: 
      bring to your local grocery store, Target or Walmart 
    • Examples: grocery bags, bread bags, newspaper bags, zip-lock bags, cereal or baking box liners, plus film wrap from water bottles, paper products, bubble wrap, deflated air pillows, Must be the stretchy kind of plastic

Other items that may be recyclable in your community

  • Electronics, Appliances and Yard Equipment (go to Collection Events for more details)
  • Tires can be brought to the Town of Richmond's recycling center (or local service centers when purchasing tires)
  • Hazardous Waste - Clean Sweep fall collection event (go to Collection Events for more details)
  • Printer cartridges, re-chargeable and vehicle batteries, used motor oil, fluorescent bulbs, eye glasses / hearing aids, scrap metal (drop-off sites or mail-in programs)
  • After planting your gardens, check with your garden center to see if they take-back the empty plastic flower trays and pots. Home Depot does. 
  • Re-claim programs may be offered through the manufacturer -
    Contact the retail business or manufacturer directly for details 
  • TerraCycle also provides many MAIL-BACK programs
    for general product categories or specific manufacturers
  • For more details check-out our A-Z Recycling & Disposal Guide

WI DNR offers a Renter's Guide to Recycling and Waste Reduction