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Waste overview

Small businesses must follow rules regarding waste storage, transport, recycling and disposal. For more information on Waste regulations, go to the Waste program pages.

Waste and Materials Management Program

Solid waste

Plan approvals and licenses are required for any company that processes, transports or disposes of solid waste. Solid waste is defined as garbage, refuse, salvageable material or sludge from a waste treatment plant, water supply treatment plant or air pollution control facility. Information about forms and fees is contained in chapter NR 520, Wis. Adm. Code. There are also regulations pertaining to recycling facilities in this chapter. Because this code is complex, companies are urged to contact a DNR representative for assistance. The permit-approval process typically takes 90 days.

Hazardous waste

Hazardous waste is any waste (material that can no longer be used for its intended purpose) that would be considered hazardous (either specifically listed by the EPA as hazardous or having a characteristic of being ignitable, corrosive, reactive or toxic; can include acids, bases, leftover thinners, paints, inks or solvents, etc.). The regulations vary depending on the amount of waste you generate. Generators of waste are categorized as follows.

  • Very Small Quantity Generators (VSQG) generate less than 100 kg or 220 lbs per calendar month and do not accumulate more than 1,000 kg or 2,205 lbs at any time.
  • Small Quantity Generators (SQG) generate more than 100 kg or 220 lbs and less than 1,000 kg or 2,205 lbs per calendar month and accumulate less than 6,000 kg or 13,320 lbs at any time.
  • Large Quantity Generators (LQG) generate at least 1,000 kg or 2,205 lbs in any calendar month and do not accumulate for more than 90 days.

The requirements for hazardous waste storage, transport, treatment, disposal and record keeping can be found at waste facility and transporter licenses.

Treatment, Storage and Disposal (TSD), SQG and LQG facilities must use manifests for hazardous waste shipments. The manifest must identify the quantity, composition, generator, transporter and destination of all hazardous wastes.

All TSDs must have a Wisconsin hazardous waste license. For further information, see the waste facility and transporter licenses.

There are several other regulations that pertain to hazardous substances. Among these are emergency planning, emergency notification and community right to know. These regulations are known as SARA Title III regulations and can be found in ss. 166.20 and 144.76, Wis. Stats. They require businesses that use, store, produce or transport any of 356 extremely hazardous substances above the reportable thresholds to submit an emergency planning notification to Wisconsin Emergency Management (WEM). Spills of hazardous materials exceeding reportable quantities must be reported to WEM and the National Response Center immediately. Businesses may also be required to submit copies of safety data sheets (SDS) to WEM and the local fire department, along with a listing of chemicals stored on site during the year. More information can be found at the Wisconsin Emergency Management webpage under the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs website.

Under federal and state laws, all generators of hazardous waste have to comply with some regulations. The regulations covering hazardous waste are very specific and have detailed requirements. For more information, refer to chs. NR 660-679, Wis. Adm. Code under the Hazardous Waste tab on the Solid and hazardous waste codes webpage.

Recycling program

Wisconsin businesses are under an obligation to recycle certain items and must include space for the collection and storage of recyclables in any new, renovated or expanded facility. Learn about what to recycle in Wisconsin. Business owners must inform themselves about the specific requirements of the local recycling ordinances.

There are additional impacts of the recycling law on certain businesses. For further information, see the business and workplace recycling page.

Reducing, reusing and recycling plastic bags and wrap

Businesses across Wisconsin can also reduce, reuse and recycle plastic bags, packaging and film while taking the opportunity to build profits and create jobs. Industrial or commercial shrink wrap used in business packaging can be recycled and is in high demand by industry and manufacturers as a raw material feedstock. Recycling clean, dried plastic shopping bags, newspaper bags, wrap packaging and other plastic film ensures that we continue to make full use of materials while conserving energy and keeping bags and wrap out of our landfills, streets and natural environment. By recycling wrap and spreading the word, businesses can lead the way for their communities and help create Wisconsin jobs.

Waste oil recycling

Companies that sell automotive oil, including service stations, must maintain a waste oil collection facility or post a sign directing customers to the nearest waste oil collection facility. Companies that transport non-hazardous waste engine oil must obtain a solid waste transportation license. For more information, see the recycling motor oil, oil filters and other automotive products page.

Additional resources