| What items are recyclable? How should items be prepared?
| Use Waste Whiz to search for information on particular items.
- Blue Box users: For details on what materials are accepted and how to prepare them, see our brochure or this list on how to sort your recyclables.
- Cart users in Multi-unit buildings: You can recycle the same materials as Blue Box users, but you need to separate the items into different carts. Find out more in our Cart Recycling Brochure.
- Use two blue boxes: Since there are so many items you can recycle , try to have at least two blue boxes. Use one for all of the "containers" (e.g. metal, plastic and glass food and beverage containers, milk cartons, etc.) and the other for paper products and plastic bags.
- Write your address on your blue boxes in permanent marker. This makes it easier for them to be returned if they blow away on a stormy day.
- To maximize the space in your "containers" blue box, crush plastic bottles and metal cans.
| Using the right type of blue box
Using the right type of blue box:
- Prevents health and safety issues for collection staff (who handle thousands of boxes each day), and
- Makes sorting recyclables into truck compartments efficient. The recycling trucks have two compartments - one for all containers, and the other for paper products and plastic bags.
What kind of blue box is approved?
- Rigid plastic which does not bend or give when lifted full
- A rim around the top of the container so the driver can lift it and hook it on the side of the truck for sorting
- Maximum size for blue boxes used for "containers only" (i.e. for recycling cans, cartons, bottles and jars) 68 to 91 litres (18 to 24 gallons).
- Maximum size for blue boxes used for "paper products and plastic bags" (i.e. for recycling newspaper, books, etc.) 45 to 60 litres (12 to 16 gallons)
Recyclables set out in wheeled carts, laundry hampers, storage totes, large blue plastic "recycling" bags, large clear or opaque bags, and cardboard boxes will not be collected at single family homes.
| Do you need a "containers only" blue box?
Do you have a lot of cans, cartons, bottles and jars to recycle every week? If so, then you may use a large blue box that is 68 to 91 litres (18 to 24 gallons).
Using a large "containers only" blue box is not mandatory, but many residents have asked for a larger box to allow for more capacity.Containers will still be accepted if sorted into a regular sized blue box.
Only cans, cartons, bottles and jars are allowed in the larger blue box to help ensure safe, effcient collection. Do not put paper products in it.
Refer to the Size and Weight limits for blue boxes for more information.
| How to fit more into the blue box
| Looking to fit more into your blue box? These tips will help!
- Crush cans
- Flatten plastic bottles e.g. take the lid off of a plastic water bottle, squish bottle and put the lid back on so it remains flattened
- Flatten milk and juice cartons
- Put paper in a plastic grocery bag and place beside your blue box
- Flatten and bundle cardboard, rather than putting it in a blue box. Bundles should be no larger than 75 x 75 x 20 cm (30 x 30 x 8 inches)
| Do the "two box sort"
|If you regularly put out two blue boxes or more, this two-box sort system will help you store your recyclables more conveniently and make collection more efficient. If you have a small amount of recyclables, then sorting into a single blue box (containers on one side, paper on the other) is fine. Please, no "salad boxes"!
CONTAINERS ONLY BLUE BOX
Maximum size of box: 68 to 91 litres (18 to 24 gallons)
What to recycle:
- Rigid plastic food, beverage, cleaning, personal and pet care containers including clam shells, "blister packs"/ hard plastic packaging (from packages of toys, electronics, etc.). No Styrofoam.
- Drinking boxes, milk and juice cartons
- Paper coffee cups
- Glass bottles and jars. No broken glass.
- Metal food and beverage cans
- Aerosol and paint cans (Dry paint cans only. Remove lid.)
- Aluminum foil wrap and trays
How to prepare the recyclables: Empty and rinse containers. Discard straws. Remove lids if it's a different material than the bottle (e.g. metal lid on a glass bottle, plastic lid from a paper coffee cup).
PAPER PRODUCTS AND PLASTIC BAGS
Maximum size of box: 45 to 60 litres (12 to 16 gallons) A larger box can be used, but do not exceed the 23 kg (50 pound) weight limit. Overweight boxes will not be collected.
What to recycle:
- Paper including newspaper, writing paper, envelopes
- Books: hard and soft covered
- Corrugated cardboard
- Boxboard including cereal, tissue, egg cartons, toilet paper rolls .
- Plastic bags including grocery, bread, fruit/veg, zippered bags, salt bags. No stand-up pouch bags or stretch wrap
- Plastic outer wrap from packages of diapers, pop, water bottles, etc.
How to prepare the recyclables: Empty, dry bags only. Stuff all plastic bags and outer wrap into one bag and tie shut. Bag or bundle paper. Discard liner bags from boxes. Flatten and bundle cardboard no larger than 75x75x75 cm (30x30x8 inches)
| Collection issues and items left behind
Below are some common reasons why things are left behind, including by-law requirements and health and safety concerns:
1. Item is not acceptable in our program, such as Styrofoam, plastic toys, bagged containers, ceramic mug, drinking glass, light bulbs. These types of items either are not acceptable to recycling markets and/or create processing difficulties.
Ways to handle unacceptable items:
- Recycle packaging Styrofoam (large bulky pieces - no food grade or small packing chips) at the Cambridge (201 Savage Drive) or Waterloo (925 Erb Street West, Gate 2) waste management sites. Fees may apply.
- Donate reusable items like toys to family, friends, or local charities.
- Unbag glass, metal, or plastic food and beverage containers and place in your blue box loose for next week's collection.
- Ceramic mugs, drinking glasses and light bulbs are made of materials that are not suited to recycle with 'container' glass. Please donate reusable items or wrap up in layers of newsprint and place in garbage.
2. Item presents a health and safety concern to the driver - such as broken glass, broken dishware.
How to deal with these items: Please wrap broken glass in several layers of newspaper, tape it closed and place in garbage can/bag, or place in a corrugated cardboard box, tape shut, label as "broken glass" and place alongside your garbage.
3. Recycling has not been properly prepared, such as unflattened cardboard, filled food containers, overweight blue boxes.
How to properly prepare recyclables:
- Please ensure large cardboard boxes are flattened, sized and bundled no larger than 75 x 75 x 20 cm (30 x 30 x 8 inches). Boxes larger than this cannot fit into the recycling truck.
- Empty food into your green bin, rinse the container, and place in your blue box for next week's collection.
- Blue boxes should weigh no more than 23 kg (50 pounds).
4. Item is banned and is not allowed due to by-law requirements. Includes materials considered to be household hazardous waste (compact fluorescent light bulbs, paint, unemptied aerosol cans, etc.)
How to deal with household hazardous waste: Take household hazardous waste to appropriate Regional facilities or to local businesses. Check out the information available on our website.
5. Recycling has not been set out in a proper location (such as on top of a snowbank) or in a proper container (cardboard boxes or storage totes are not acceptable).
Where to set out recyclables for collection: Place your recycling in a spot at the end of your driveway so that it can be easily seen and reached by collection staff. Do not place recycling on top of or behind snowbanks or behind cars parked along the curb.
Use the proper size of recycling box so that collection staff can pick it up and sort it efficiently.
| Where to recycle your broken blue box
|Broken blue boxes can be recycled! Please drop them off at the Region's Waste Management Administration offices in Cambridge (201 Savage Drive) or Waterloo (925 Erb Street West, Gate 1) Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
| What happens to your recyclables?
Recyclables are taken to the Nyle Ludolph Materials Recycling Centre located at 925 Erb Street West, Waterloo. Every year, over 35,000 metric tonnes of recyclables are sorted and sold to recycling markets.
Watch this video to see the operation in action!
| Proud blue box history: Nyle Ludolph, Father of the Blue Box
Did you know that the blue box is a local invention? Nyle Ludolph has been credited with developing the world's very first residential recycling program in 1983 for Kitchener, Ontario.
"What's happened has surpassed my wildest dreams. I'm so proud I was allowed to be in the right place at the right time - to feel I had some impact." Nyle Ludolph, October 1993
Check out our proud history of recycling in Waterloo Region.
Continue the tradition - recycle all you can every day!
Under the Ontario Environmental Protection Act, Regulation 103/94, recycling is mandatory at multi-residential buildings having six or more units. The Region of Waterloo offers the following recycling programs to apartment buildings and townhouse complexes having six or more units:
To be eligible to join our programs, multi-unit buildings have to meet certain criteria and owners/managers have to sign a collection agreement.
Eligible buildings are provided with recycling containers, promotional materials, and weekly collection service, at no charge.
For more information, please contact Region of Waterloo Waste Management at 519-575-4400 or by email.
Links to brochures and other information
Thanks for making a difference every day by reducing, reusing and recycling!