By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Dec 21, 2021 at 10:05 AM

Snuggle up with some holiday cheer as OnMilwaukee shares stories of everything merry and bright in the spirit of the season.

Brought to you by Noel Indoor Light Park & Christmas Market and MillerCoors

Every Christmas, I'm the guy sorting the shredded wrapping paper. This goes in the trash, that goes in the recycling cart. That sort of thing.

There is a lot of waste and a lot of potentially recyclable material generated around the holidays – an additional 25 million tons of it every year between Thanksgiving and the new year in the United States – and it's good to know what to do with it all.

Thanks to the helpful folks at the City of Milwaukee's Department of Public Works and Milwaukee Recycles, we have the answers.

This week, DPW sent out its "Can I Recycle That Curbside? Holiday Edition" and I'm sharing it with you here so you can spend more time drinking nog and less time fretting about what to recycle and what to toss this year.

It's important to know, as filling the recycling bin with nonrecyclables is a challenge to the system.

So, here's this year's edition of Can I Recycle That Curbside (in the city-provided cart), as provided by your DPW:


Cardboard Boxes (Yep!, but...): After you’re done reusing them to wrap gifts, cardboard boxes can be recycled curbside, but please empty and flatten them first. Boxes that are not emptied and broken down are difficult to collect and can cause extra trips to the recycling facility when they fill up collection trucks too quickly.

Styrofoam (Nope!): Consider reusing Styrofoam. Otherwise it should be placed in your garbage cart.

Plastic bags and film (Nope!, but...): Plastic bags and film should never be placed in your recycling cart as they tangle in our recycling equipment and contaminate accepted curbside recyclables.

However, you can return them to store drop offs for source separated recycling. Packaging materials you can return include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Plastic film shipping envelopes
  • Bubble wrap
  • Air pillows


Matte wrapping paper (Yep!, but...): Wrapping paper that doesn’t contain any foil or glitter can be recycled curbside. If it’s shiny, consider reusing next year or place it in the garbage.

Newspaper (Yep!): An alternative to traditional wrapping paper and accepted in your curbside recycling.

Tissue paper (Nope!): Made from a low-grade paper, tissue paper is not accepted for curbside recycling. Consider folding up and storing for use next year.

Ribbons and bows (Nope!): These items are not recyclable and can tangle in recycling system equipment. Consider reusing or donating.


Trees (Nope!): This may seem like a silly one to list, but you see some interesting things coming into recycling facilities. Artificial trees can be donated for someone to use next year or placed in your garbage cart. They should never be placed in your recycling cart.

Live trees can be taken to a City Drop Off Center where they will be mulched, or you can place them at your regular garbage collection point for pick-up by DPW crews. Trees picked up by crews will be landfilled. Trees must be bare, with all decorations and lights removed.

Lights (Nope!): A reminder that strings of lights should never be placed in your recycling cart. Consider donating lights that are in working condition or recycle them through HolidayLEDs or drop them off at the Milwaukee County Zoo’s U.S. Bank Gathering Place through Jan. 9 (even though the zoo's Wild Lights event ends Dec. 31).

Tinsel (Nope!): Looks good on trees but creates a mess once inside recycling facilities. A costly nuisance, please keep it out of recycling carts. Reuse when you can.

Drop Off Centers

Residents can visit for hours, locations, materials accepted, and any associated fees. The centers are closed on Sundays and Mondays in winter and will be closed on Dec. 24, 25, and Jan. 1.

Recycling Collection Schedules

Residents can visit to view their garbage and recycling dates. There will be no garbage or recycling pick-up on Dec. 24, Dec. 27 or Jan. 3.

More questions?

Visit for information on acceptable materials for recycling in the City of Milwaukee. Follow us at and
Residents can also call (414) 286-CITY (2489) for more information.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.