Winneshiek County Recycling

Updated April 2019
Address: 2519 172nd Avenue, Decorah, Iowa
Phone: 563-382-6514

The recycling center is open 6:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. There is a 24 hour drop-off building in front of the recycling center and numerous collection bin sites throughout Winneshiek County.

It is not possible to list every item that has the potential to be recycled.
Please call or email Winneshiek County Recycling with any of your recycling or waste disposal questions.

Cardboard we take:

Basic corrugated boxes or sheets, cereal boxes, shoe boxes, or similar containers. Please remove all Styrofoam, plastic bags, and any other packaging. Staples, tape, and labels are OK to leave on. Corrugated cardboard is not allowed in our landfill. Please recycle it.

Cardboard we do not take:

Milk or juice cartons, plastic or wax coated boxes, and cardboard contaminated with oil.

Paper we take:

Newspapers, magazines, catalogs, office paper, egg cartons, Kraft paper, phone books, junk mail, brown paper bags, feed sacks, books, and shredded paper. Please deliver hard cover books directly to the recycling center as they need to be processed separately from all other forms of paper.

Paper we do not take:

Paper towels, plates, or cups, toilet paper, wall paper, waxed paper, Christmas wrap, and stickers.

Plastic we take:

Items stamped with #1 or #2, such as milk jugs, soap bottles, butter tubs, yogurt cups, buckets, pop and water bottles. Triple rinsed herbicide and dairy supply barrels are OK, too.

Plastic we do not take:

Items stamped with #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, Styrofoam, plastic bags, toys, vinyl siding, PVC pipe, plastic feed sacks, films, rubber, carpet, foam, silage bags, Tyvek, field tile, or motor oil bottles.

Metal we take:

Tin cans, pop cans, aluminum foil, frying pans, cookie sheets, license plates, stainless steel kitchen items, cast iron skillets, brass items, electrical cords, electric motors, and wall chargers.

Metal we do not take:

Nails, screws, large scrap iron items, microwaves, TVs, computers, electronics, or major appliances. Note that while the recycling center does not accept these items, the Winneshiek County Landfill does accept household appliances and TVs for an $18 (2021) charge and are sent off-site for demanufacturing. See


Glass is only accepted directly at the recycling center and is restricted to clear, non-redeemable food container glass only. Glass with an Iowa nickel deposit on it should go to a redemption center.

Recycling is market driven. Without viable markets, recycling cannot happen.

Random Recycling Facts

  1. The Winneshiek County recycling center processes between 2400 and 2700 tons (4.8 to 5.4 million pounds) per year and has the capacity to do a lot more.
  2. The largest expense aside from payroll is the hauling cost for the bins-about $75,000/year.
  3. Revenue not used to offset the expense of recycling, it is returned to the Winneshiek County General Fund for property tax relief. Everyone has a financial stake in this program.
  4. If there are no viable markets for something, it can not be recycled. A viable market means there are multiple financially stable established outlets worldwide for the material. The recycling business is in many ways a lot like farming.
  5. Cats are a very important part of our recycling operation.
  6. There are 27 collection bins and one direct drop-off site in the county.
  7. The largest cardboard recycling mill in the United States is in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
  8. It is OK for cardboard to be wet. Paper should stay dry.
  9. We practice lean manufacturing methods, and improve operating efficiency whenever possible.
  10. The greatest need the recycling center has right now is for more field capacity.
  11. Direct drop-off activity at the recycling center has more than tripled since early 2009.
  12. Collection bins are emptied on an as needed basis. They are monitored and emptied when full.
  13. Plastic water bottles are usually made into carpet or textiles. They are a form of polyester.
  14. We ship out about 200 tons of baled textiles and 15,000 lbs. of used shoes every year.
  15. We notice the reduction in paper usage, just like the Post Office.
  16. Hard cover books should be directly delivered to the recycling center because they have to be processed separately from other paper types. Pulping machines at the paper mills do not get along with hard cover books, but they deal with paper back books just fine.
  17. Plastic bags are our greatest expense that can not be measured. The recycling plant is designed for high speed processing of loose material. Having to open bags slows down the processing significantly. Plastic bags are also a major expense at the landfill because they become wind blown debris.
  18. Recycling presentations are available to any school, business, church or other organization. There is no charge for this service. You can tour the recycling center, too.
  19. There is no difference in the smell of one unrinsed milk jug or 10,000.
  20. Nails, screws, and bolts put in the recycling bins cause major damage to the processing equipment.
  21. The main overhead door at the recycling center is the largest in Northeast Iowa.
  22. One of our greatest safety hazards is the soap residue from baling detergent bottles. Very slippery!
  23. Tin cans often go to steel mills that make the steel siding and roofing you can buy locally. The drop-off building at the recycling center is made from your tin cans.
  24. The all time sales record for a single set load of paper is $5,599.85 set on Jan 28, 2010.
  25. The wax coated paper milk and juice cartons can not be recycled because the coating can not be removed from the paper fibers. The paper mills really hate them.
  26. It is not legal to put electric motors in a landfill. You can bring them to the recycling center.
  27. If you got in trouble and were given community service time instead of a fine, there is a possibility you can do your time at the recycling center. You will be treated with respect and your time will go quickly.
  28. We restrict the intake of glass because there are no viable markets for it. The probability of any developing in the future is somewhere between zero and none. Glass is a very small percentage of the overall waste stream. Glass that ends up in the landfill has an insignificant impact on the overall life of the landfill. It is inert and creates no methane gas. It compacts very well and is basically the equivalent of burying a rock.
  29. Nearly all gift wrapping paper is not recyclable because of the various coatings on it. A lot of it has no paper fiber content in it at all. Please do not put it in the recycling bins.
  30. The demise of the markets for glass is a nationwide problem. The possibility of the glass markets ever returning is practically zero. Old bottles can not possibly compete with sand to make glass.
  31. A landfill should be compacted to 1100 to 1200 lbs. per cubic yard or more. Financially, this is one of the most important equations of our time. The people that operate the Winneshiek County Landfill have a tremendous amount of financial responsibility and they manage it very well.

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