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This is a reminder to all City of Onalaska residents that your refuse and recycling carts should be placed at your collection point after 4:00 PM the evening before day of collection and they need to be removed from the collection point, whether boulevard or alleyway, within 24 hours of collection day (Ordinance Sec. 16.07.13(B)(2)).
Harter's Quick Clean-Up begins pickup as early as 5:00 AM so please place your carts out for collection the evening before pick up or before 5:00 AM. Please remove your carts from the boulevard/alleyway area within 24 hours after pick up.
If Harter's goes past your house and your carts are not out they will not come back to remove your items. Or a fee may be required (call Harter's for details - (608) 782-2082).
If you do not have a Yard Waste Cart yet and wish to obtain one you will need to stop at City Hall to purchase a Yard Waste Sticker and pay for cart delivery. The sticker and a Yard Waste cart will be delivered to your address. The fee is $30 for the Yard Waste sticker and $30 for delivery of cart.



Under State law, each municipality is required to have a residential recycling program.  As part of the 2023 operating budget, the City of Onalaska instituted a Recycling Resource Special Charge to fund the City of Onalaska’s recycling operations.

 This is a special charge that will appear on the quarterly utility bill for the residences who use the City’s recycling collection service.

 Single-family homes and multi-family buildings of 4 or fewer units are automatically enrolled in the Recycling Resource Special Charge due to receiving service.

 The quarterly rate for 2023 is $8.77 per dwelling unit ($35.08 total per year).




Why does this charge exist?

The special charge was passed as part of the 2023 operating budget and it is expected to continue in additional future budgets.


Why not just pay for recycling with property taxes, like other services?

The City’s costs to continue providing services - all services, not just recycling - are higher than its revenues.


The State has placed limits on local governments’ ability to increase property taxes while also reducing state aid to cities. 


There are two options to address this gap of funding: one option is to provide fewer services and the other is to find new ways to pay for services through mechanisms like special charges.


In order to continue providing services to Onalaska residents, the City must utilize its ability to cover some costs through special charges. 


One of the services provided by Onalaska that can be shifted from the property taxes to a special charge is recycling.


How is the special charge rate set?

The Common Council sets the rate each year.

 The yearly amount is expected to be a simple formula where the costs of the recycling services are divided by the number of entities served by the third-party company used to collect recycling from residents.


This special charge is regressive. Why can't we do it in a progressive way?

There are two ways that some charges can be applied in a progressive manner (which are explained below). However, they do not apply to the Recycling Resource Special Charge.


  • Paying more if you use more: This is a concept that works well with some bills, but not recycling. For example, on your quarterly utility bill, paying per gallon of water used incentivizes conservation.


With recycling, recycling more (and recycling right) is a good thing. The special charge is not designed to encourage people to recycle less.


  • Paying less if you have a lower income:  State law does not allow differentiation by income in setting this charge.  


Is there a way for me to pay less? Put the cart out fewer times? Get a smaller cart?

The charge is a flat amount across all entities that receive recycling services from the city’s third-party provider for recycling collection. If you receive our services, then the Recycling Resource Special Charge applies.  The City pays per cart, no matter if the cart is put out, or what size it is.

The special charge isn't specifically about processing or sorting the material you generate.  It's about funding the entire collection system so it can be there when you need it. 


What happens if I just don't recycle? Does that mean I don't have to pay?

By State law, recycling is mandatory in the City of Onalaska and throughout Wisconsin. 

Failing to recycle can result in fines from the City or Public Works and the contracted recycling collector will stop collecting your trash if recyclables are found in the brown refuse cart for your home. Recyclables are also banned from landfills in Wisconsin.

Plus, you will still pay the special charge. It is not based on the volume of recycling you create.


Why is it called the "Recycling Resource Special Charge"?

When you recycle, we recover resources from those materials.


This special charge seems like it will mean people will recycle less. How are you going to be sure people keep recycling?

The special charge for residential buildings is not based on cart size, the number of carts, or even how full the carts are, so it will not be a disincentive to recycling.


It is a flat amount that everyone who receives recycling services pays, and you cannot opt out of recycling. 


Getting a smaller cart will not reduce the amount of the special charge for your home. Trying to get by with fewer carts than what you need will also not reduce the special charge.


Since recyclables are banned from landfills throughout Wisconsin, our third-party trash collectors will not take garbage carts filled with recycling.


I don't create a lot of recyclables in my home. If I pay this flat rate, does that mean I am subsidizing people that make more than me?

The special charge isn't specifically about processing or sorting the material you generate. 

It's about funding the entire collection system so it can be there when you need it.


Do properties with more than one recycling cart pay a higher rate?

The City’s solid waste contract is priced per automated cart that has been assigned to less than four unit residential units. Those dwelling units that have more than one automated refuse or recycling cart are charged an additional separate yearly fee for these carts. The Recycling Resource Special Charge will mirror the solid waste contract and charge a flat rate ($8.77 quarterly) to each recycling end-user. The City supplies a garbage and recycling cart for each residential unit, but residents may contact the City Engineering Department (608-781-9537) for additional carts.


Where does the money that is collected go and what is it used for?

The Recycling Resource Special Charge will be collected through your Onalaska Utility Services bill and be allocated into a designated fund. These funds will then be used specifically to pay for the costs already incurred by the City to support the recycling program.


Does this Recycling Resource Special Charge affect trash collection?

No.  The special charge is only for recycling services.  If you receive trash collection in the City of Onalaska, you may continue doing so with no change or special charge for that base level of service.


Since I will be charged by residential unit within my building, can I have more recycling carts?

Multi-family buildings (4 units and less) that utilize the City of Onalaska’s contracted third-party recycling services will be allowed an equal number of recycling carts to the number of apartment units within the building. 


Does the Recycling Resource Special Charge apply to all buildings and properties in the City?
No.  This charge only applies to those served by the City of Onalaska’s contracted third-party recycling collector, and will only be charged to residential properties with 4 or less units.  I.e. large apartment buildings and any buildings with 5 or more units as well as commercial/industrial properties will not be affected.  


Many commercial buildings and large apartments receive recycling services through a private company.  If you are served by a private company at your business or property, you will not receive this special charge, as you already pay for recycling services separately.


Can I choose to use a private hauler for my trash and recycling collection instead of the contracted third-party collector?

Existing residential customers in building of fewer than 4 units cannot opt out of the City’s contracted recycling service.


Businesses and multi-family buildings of more than 4 units can elect to use private haulers. If you do elect to use a private hauler for recycling services, you will not be charged the Recycling Resource Special Charge.


What about large apartment buildings?

If your multi-family building is larger than 4 units, then you will be ineligible to receive city collections.


Do I have to use collection carts for recycling services?

Your recyclables, including cardboard, must be placed into a recycling cart for collection.  Failure to do so may result in the recyclables not being collected.


Who do I contact if I have more questions about this charge?

Director of Public Works: (608) 781-9537