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Only place appropriate recyclables in your collection carts

On September 2, 2021 a load of recyclables in a collection vehicle working in the 1100 block of E. Gorham Street caught fire.

Thanks to the quick thinking of the vehicle operator, and the assistance of the Madison Fire Department, the fire was suppressed.   

The operator was safe following this incident, and the collection vehicle was also spared.

The recyclable materials, however, were a total loss and were sent to the landfill.

This is the second recycling truck fire this year for the Streets Division, and it is part of an unfortunate trend in the waste industry.   

Why are recycling truck fires happening?
A common culprit for these fires in the waste industry are lithium batteries.  They do not belong in your recycling cart, and neither do the electronics lithium batteries power (like cell phones or key fobs).

When damaged, lithium batteries can spark. Since our recyclables contain paper and cardboard, a spark within a truck carrying tons of recyclables can easily lead to a fire.

According to a report from the EPA, there have been 245 fires at waste facilities since 2013 that are attributable to lithium batteries – and this number may be low.

While the exact cause of the September truck fire for the Streets Division is unknown, and thankfully it was relatively small, it remains important that we all properly handle lithium batteries as they can be hazardous.
Safe disposal is up to all of us.  By making the right choices, we can prevent future fires and keep our essential workers safe.

How can you help?
Only place the correct items into your recycling cart.

Use any of the available resources to be sure you are putting the correct paper, plastic, metal, and glass items that can be collected, sorted, and recycled safely.  

Recycling information can be found in our Recyclopedia, which is available for download from the Streets Division website. Paper copies are available at Madison Public Library branches, and they can be mailed by request.

Recycling information can also be found on these one-page flyers which are available for download.

Many recycling carts in Madison have a guide on the lid of the cart that provides recycling info.

And if you contact the Streets Division, you can receive a free 3” x 5” refrigerator magnet that provides the recycling basics.

There is also the Streets Division’s recycling website,

Where can I recycle batteries safely?
The Streets Division offers two drop-off locations for City of Madison residents to recycle batteries.

Check the Streets Division website to learn the proper way to package and deliver your batteries to the sites.

Additional Information
More information about Streets Division’s recycling services can be found at