Your Frequently Asked Questions About Going Green, Answered

Thinking about going green but don’t know where to start? Here are a few easy tips.


What are some of the most common mistakes for a recycler to avoid?

Besides not putting non-recyclables into your bin, the big one is plastic bags. Don’t recycle them curbside – there’s a separate drop-off for them – and don’t use them to collect other recyclables. Plastic bags gum up machines, have to be sorted out and can ruin batches of legitimately recyclable materials. Instead, use a paper bag.

What is the cost of recycling in Milwaukee?

The program cost a total of roughly $10 million in 2019 – offset by the sale of materials, plus $2.3 million from the state. The solid waste fee on Milwaukee residents’ municipal services (About $240 a year per household) covers the remainder, roughly $6.5 million.

Potato peels: In the trash or down the drain?

The compost pail is the best bet, but between the landfill or the sewer, go with the InSinkErator (except for fibrous stuff like asparagus or celery). As organic materials break down in landfills, they release greenhouse gases. But chewed-up food bits that go down the drain make their way to Jones Island, where they get chewed up by the microbes that eat sewage and end up as Milorganite fertilizer.


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Paper or plastic?

Bad news here: It almost doesn’t matter. Plastic bags are tough to recycle and often end up as litter, but they’re so light that the carbon footprint and resource drain is very low. Paper is biodegradable and easier to recycle but takes significantly more energy to make. Plus, trees! Your best bet is a sturdy, reusable cloth tote.

Are flushable wipes really flushable?

Insomuch as they go down the drain and aren’t your problem anymore, yes. But those wipes don’t break down like toilet paper, and can cause clogs in sewer mains and laterals – which could back up into your basement – and wreak havoc with sewage treatment equipment. Toss ’em in the trash or, better yet, use a washcloth.

How much salt should I use? 

Put your sidewalk on a low-salt diet. Instead of using river-fouling salt, shovel early and often. When it’s needed, use just one coffee cup of salt per 10 sidewalk squares.