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Blue Box & Blue and Grey Cart Recycling programs

Recycling is a proud tradition in Waterloo Region. The first ever Blue Box program started in Kitchener in 1983 and now millions all over the world are recycling!

If you want to recycle beyond the blue box, check out other recycling programs. Everything from bicycles to textiles can be recycled!    

Questions or collection issues? Please call our 24-hour Customer Service desk at 519-575-4400.

General collection information for Blue Box users

Residents in single-family homes, and small apartments up to 6 units receive unlimited blue box collection every week. See Collection by building type for more information.
  • Trucks begin collecting at 7 a.m. Please have all items to the curb by then on your collection day. 
  • Regular collection runs on all statutory holidays except Christmas Day and New Year's Day. We will provide details of changes to the collection schedule closer to the holiday.
  • Preparing recyclables correctly helps to ensure the program runs efficiently and prevents litter.  See "Containers only" and 2 blue box sort system FAQs for details.
  • Please don't overfill your boxes,
  • Flatten and size corrugated cardboard no larger than 75 x 75 x 20 cm (30 x 30 x 8 inches) and place beside your blue box.

What items are acceptable? How should items be prepared?

The same materials are collected in the Blue Box program and Blue and Grey Cart programs, but there are some differences in sorting and preparation.

Please check the following resources for details:

Blue Box users:  

Use Waste Whiz to search for information on particular items.

See our brochurethe 2 box sort FAQ or this list on how to sort your waste.

Cart users in Multi-unit buildings: See our Cart Recycling Brochure.

How to fit more into your blue box

  • 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 centimeters (30 x 30 x 8 inches)

What blue box(es) should I use? How do I recycle my broken one?

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.


  • 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.
 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) Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. or Waterloo (925 Erb Street West, Gate 1) Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 

Why some items are not collected and how to deal with them

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 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:  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.  Recyclables have 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 centimeters (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 Household Hazardous Waste recycling and disposal options available on our website.

5.  Recycling has not been set out in a proper location (such as on top of a snowbank):  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.

6.  Recycling has not been set out in a proper container:  Use the right size of recycling box (see information above) so that collection staff can pick it up and sort it efficiently.

Blue and grey cart recycling for multi-residential properties

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:

Photo of girl emptying recycling into large blue cart

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 

Blue and grey cart recycling for schools

Schools in Waterloo Region are eligible for the Blue and Grey Cart program. This program collects the same materials as the Blue Box program. 

Schools are provided with large roll-out carts (limits apply), and weekly collection service, at no charge.

Links to brochures and other information

Interested in getting on the Cart Recycling program for schools? Please contact Region of Waterloo Waste Management at 519-575-4400 or by email

 What happens to the recyclables?

Recyclables are taken to the Nyle Ludolph Materials Recycling Centre located at 925 Erb Street West, Waterloo. Every year, over 30,000 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


Photo of Nyle LudolphDid 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!