Seal of Dane County County of Dane
Dane County Department of Waste & Renewables

Dane County Trash Lab

Created by the Dane County Department of Waste & Renewables in collaboration with Madison Children’s Museum, the Trash Lab is a mobile exhibit designed to educate and motivate us to create less trash and rethink our relationship with waste.

Housed in a fully accessible, 27-foot-long repurposed cargo trailer, Trash Lab features more than 10 playful interactive stations, engaging stories, and a wealth of data, along with compelling photography and video footage. The exhibit’s whimsical exterior and immersive interior environment will capture visitors’ imaginations as it travels throughout Southern Wisconsin. The exhibit explores the social justice, economic, and environmental effects of waste, connecting our local experiences to both local and global outcomes. Trash Lab will help citizens of all ages better understand the implications of the waste they produce, how landfills work, and new opportunities for more sustainable solutions.

The Trash Lab has also been designed to advance equity and inclusion of solid waste and recycling education. The Trash Lab can be hauled to events and taken to schools that may not otherwise have the means to travel to the DCDWR’s site to learn about solid waste & recycling. The Trash Lab is wheelchair accessible and there are also booklets available for visitors who wish for a Spanish translation of the exhibit materialls.

Visting The Trash Lab

When not traveling, Trash Lab will be permanently housed at the Dane County landfill, where it is expected to welcome hundreds of visitors annually as part of Dane County’s public tours of the landfill and on-site renewable energy plant. Trash Lab fans can follow the Trash Lab’s journey and tag their experiences exploring the vehicle at the Dane County Trash Lab Instagram page @renewaste. Fans can also continue the learning online by reading through our Trash Lab booklet, available both in English and Spanish. This booklet contains information from the exhibits inside the Trash Lab.

Interested in hosting the Trash Lab in your community or event? Contact Sujata at for more information.


Join us in helping educate the community on where the waste you create goes and how to move towards a sustainable future by being a Trash Lab Expert!  Anyone who is enthusiastic about recycling or zero-waste and aged 15+ are welcome to sign up by emailing for more details.

What does it mean to be a Trash Lab Expert?
A Trash Lab Expert helps share the story behind the Trash Lab and knows how to use the Trash Lab as a tool to educate the community on what happens with their trash and why it is important to manage it in the way we do. You will also demonstrate the different interactive activities within the lab. We hope you can share your enthusiasm for the environment by protecting it and building sustainable habits with others. Community members should leave understanding their impact on the environment and what they can do about it.

What are the Trash Lab Expert Perks?
Waste & Renewables will reach out to Trash Lab Experts via email as opportunities to staff the Trash Lab at various community events arise. As volunteers, Trash Lab Experts get free admission into the events the Trash Lab participates in, such as the Dane County Fair and Kids Building Wisconsin Festival. We also offer periodic gratitude gifts to the Trash Lab Experts that volunteer the most hours with us, as we appreciate immensely your time to help us share the story of our community's waste.


March 2021: Outstanding Achievement in Education from the Associated Recyclers of Wisconsin

May 2021: Sustainability Excellence in Exhibits Award from the American Alliance of Museuems



1.  Does the Trash Lab travel to offsite locations

Yes, please see our Trash Lab Community Request form if interested in requesting the Trash Lab. Completed forms should be emailed to Sujata at

2.  Is there a fee for it to travel?

There is no fee to host the Trash Lab; donations are welcome but never expected.

 3.  How does it work for an event?

Dane County staff will drop off Trash Lab before event and make sure it is has access to an external outlet for power (any regular 120 volt outlet should do). In terms of space, Trash Lab is approximately 27’ long and 8’ wide. During event, Dane County staff will open and staff Trash Lab (along with any Trash Lab Expert volunteers!), answering questions about what happens to our trash here in Dane County.

 4.  If you are travelling, how far out are you booking visits? 

We typically stay within Dane County in terms of travel, as it is our staff that needs to drive it and drop it off to various events, and longer drive times are not always feasible. In terms of scheduling a Trash Lab visit, we have been scheduling about 2 months out but could explore scheduling for events further out.



Sujata Gautam

S.W. Engineer | Dane County Department of Waste & Renewables
(608) 206-6952