By Chris Hubbuch | Wisconsin State Journal – Dec. 23, 2022

Wrapping paper and ribbons, burned-out bulbs, dried-out Christmas trees, cardboard boxes and plastic clamshells: Trash can or recycling bin?

Managing holiday waste can be overwhelming, so here are some tips for making your holidays a little simpler — and greener.

Most Madison-area households — including those in Madison, Middleton, Fitchburg, Sun Prairie and Verona — can safely recycle a few more items than other areas, thanks to the sorting system at Pellitteri Waste Systems, which can handle things like paper cups, milk and juice cartons, tissue and wrapping paper, so long as there’s no foil, glitter or other adornments.

“So long as it passes the ‘tear test,’ it can definitely be placed in recycling carts,” said company vice president Danielle Pellitteri.

While some retailers offer holiday light collection programs, do not put light strings in the recycling bin. They get tangled in sorting equipment and force the processing centers to shut down.

And never put batteries in the cart, especially the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries found in cellphones, toys and musical greeting cards, which can catch on fire.

Bows, ribbons and coated gift bags are also not recyclable, though they can be reused.

It must fit

Madison recycling coordinator Bryan Johnson advises residents to carefully “manage the air space” in the recycling cart to ensure all the holiday detritus fits: flatten boxes or cut them into smaller pieces, and avoid bagging recyclables, which creates empty pockets. Johnson also cautions against wedging things in so tightly that the cart can’t be emptied.

If all those boxes just won’t fit, Madison residents can take them to one of the city’s drop-off sites on South Point Road and Sycamore Avenue.

When it comes to plastic, Pellitteri accepts numbers 1 through 7, which can include some clamshell packaging.

Anything not stamped with a number should go in the trash.

“When in doubt, throw it out,” Pellitteri said.

These materials are banned from landfills and must be recycled:

  • Cardboard (flatten boxes before putting them in carts)
  • Newspaper
  • Magazines
  • Office paper
  • Plastic #1 and #2 containers
  • Aluminum cans (don’t crush or flatten)
  • Steel (tin) cans
  • Glass bottles and jars

These can be recycled in Madison and other nearby communities served by Pellitteri Waste Systems:

  • Wrapping paper that can be torn (no glitter, foil or other decorations)
  • Paper cups
  • Paper milk and juice cartons
  • Cereal boxes and junk mail
  • Plain greeting cards

Put these in the trash or take to a designated drop-off site:

  • Bows and ribbons
  • Styrofoam (check inside those boxes)
  • Holiday light strings or other cords
  • Plastic bags, film or wrap
  • Batteries
  • Electronics
  • Greeting cards with foil, glitter or battery-powered speakers
  • Gift cards
  • Gift bags
  • Window glass, drinking glasses, ceramics or Pyrex
  • Pizza boxes (though uncontaminated parts can be torn off and recycled)

Check out the city’s holiday recycling guide at or visit Pellitteri’s website at for a complete list of recyclable materials and a series of pro tips.