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Madison ends plastic bag recycling

Madison ends plastic bag recycling

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Madison residents will have to find new outlets if they want to recycle plastic bags.

The city announced Tuesday it will no longer accept plastic film and bags in curbside recycling bins or at drop-off sites because of market constraints.

Plastic film can get tangled in automated sorting machinery, leading to shutdowns at processing centers, but Madison had been accepting bundled bags. But the city said its processor, Pellitteri Waste Systems, can no longer sell those bags.

Company vice president Danielle Pellitteri said the main problem was contamination.

“As China stopped importing lower grade film, the markets started to dry up, and consequently now only clean aggregated plastic film is marketable,” Pellitteri said.

But it’s hard to keep the bags clean in a truck full of used cans, bottles and other recyclable materials.

“We gave it our best try ... but are unable to continue the program,” Pellitteri said.

Pellitteri said the change would affect other local municipalities as recycling contracts come due.

Madison recycling coordinator Bryan Johnson said the city is working to find an alternative way to offer plastic bag recycling, though it’s unlikely that bags will ever be allowed back in curbside carts.

The city advises residents who want to recycle plastic grocery bags to bring empty, clean and dry bags to retail collection points, which include Pick ‘n Save, Festival, Hy-Vee, Kohl’s, Target, Metcalfe’s, Walmart and Woodman’s. Some food pantries and thrift stores also accept used bags for reuse.

The state Department of Natural Resources encourages consumers to use paper bags, reusable cloth bags or to skip the bag altogether.

Republican lawmakers in 2016 passed a bill that prohibits municipalities from banning or charging fees for plastic bags or any other packaging.

For more information on what can and can’t be placed in recycling carts, visit


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