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Curbside collection: frequently asked questions

Why did the curbside collection programs change in March, 2017?

To provide the same level of service

Prior to March, 2017, there were different levels of waste collection services offered throughout the Region, such as:

  • Various garbage bag/can limits in the Townships (which were lower than in the Cities)
  • Every second week (instead of weekly) blue box collection in the rural areas of the Townships
  • No yard waste or green bin collection in the rural areas of the Townships
  • Different frequency and limits for bulky items in the Townships compared with the Cities.

Now, all single family homes have the same curbside collection service.

To preserve resources and protect the environment

  • Prior to March, we conducted a garbage audit and found that 53 per cent (by weight) of residential garbage going to the landfill could have gone in the green bin, and 14 per cent of it could have gone in the blue box. These organic and recyclable materials are valuable resources, and should not be buried in the landfill. As found in other municipalities, bi-weekly garbage collection presented the best opportunity to divert these resources for beneficial re-use:
    • Food waste can be turned info beneficial compost for farmers' fields, offsetting the need for commercial fertilizers and their potential environmental impacts.
    • Paper, metal and plastic can all be turned into valuable new products.
  • Better air quality:
    • Other municipalities identified a decrease in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions with garbage collection every second week, due to fewer trucks on the road.
    • The organics wasted in our landfill generate methane, a greenhouse gas, which contributes to global warming.

To reduce costs and preserve our community asset: the landfill

  • A new waste collection contract also started in March, 2017 and is expected to save approximately $2.4 million dollars each year. Savings were achieved by Regional Council's decision to tender a contract that included garbage collection every two weeks, thereby reducing the number of garbage trucks needed and all the costs associated with running those trucks over the term of the contract. Regional Council, as part of their budget process deliberations, will decide how and where the cost savings will be applied.
  • We only have 15 to 20 years of capacity remaining in our one-and-only landfill. The cost to site and build another facility, (even if another landfill could even be sited/permitted) will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
  • When blue boxes, green bins and other diversion programs are fully used by citizens, only a small amount of waste requires curbside pick up for disposal in the landfill.

How are the collection trucks picking up the items I set out for collection?

In Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo,

  • One truck will have 3 compartments to collect green bin organics, blue box "containers" and blue box "paper products and plastic bags", and
  • Separate trucks will alternate between Kitchener one week, and Cambridge/Waterloo the next week for garbage and bulky item collection

In the Townships,

  • Garbage and organics will be collected in the same truck
  • Blue box recycling will be collected in a separate truck

What about people who are away on their garbage day? The garbage won't be picked up for a month...

If you are away on your garbage day, please consider the following:

  • Green bin and blue box waste will still be picked up weekly. Organics and blue box recyclables make up the majority of waste generated in an average household.
  • Ask a neighbour to help out by putting your items to the curb while you're away.
  • Garbage tags are available for sale so additional garbage can be set out on your next garbage collection day.
  • Garbage can be dropped off at one of the Region's transfer stations (fees will apply).

How can large families handle deal with the lower garbage bag/can limits?

Large families can still recycle the majority of their waste by setting out their blue boxes and green bins weekly. There is no limit on the number of blue boxes and green bins a household can set out.

The new four garbage bag/can limit equals 96 kilograms (200 pounds) of garbage per collection.

No other municipality offers a "large family exemption". Families of all sizes are making garbage collection every two weeks work for them in Halton Region, and the cities of Ottawa, Barrie and Newmarket, all of which have lower bag limits than Waterloo Region.

 How do I deal with diapers?


There is no exception for infant diapers, including those from home daycare businesses. Diapers will not pose a health hazard if handled and stored properly. The Region's Public Health department recommends:

  • Double bag items and place in a secure, covered garbage can to deter pest, vermin, and animals.
  • Store the garbage can in a cool location out of the sun to impede decomposition and minimize odours.
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling garbage. 

You can bring a clear bag containing diapers only to either of the Region's transfer stations for free drop-off.  

Check out the options on our Reduce and Reuse page.

There is a medical exemption available for those requiring incontinence products.

What is a bulky item? How many can I set out?

Bulky items are things that do not fit in a standard garbage bag or can such as appliances, furniture, lamps, etc.

Bulky items are collected every two weeks on the same day as garbage. There is a 3 item limit at single family homes, and a 10 item limit for residential buildings having 3 to 6 units. 

What if I'm doing a home renovation project?

Home renovation waste is not considered normal household garbage. It can be brought to the local landfill or transfer stations for a fee, or handled by a private waste management company.

I live in an apartment building. What collection services does the Region offer?

  • For buildings with 3 to 6 units, the Region provides curbside collection services. Go to our our Collection by Building Type web page for details
  • Some townhouse complexes are eligible to receive the same collection services as single family households. To check if your townhouse complex is eligible, please go to our Collection Schedules web page
  • For buildings with 7 or more units the Region offers the Blue and Grey Cart recycling program. This program collects the same recyclables as the Blue Box program, but in large, wheeled carts. Note that large multi-residential buildings are considered businesses under Provincial law and are responsible for their own waste programs. Owners/managers can contact their current or other haulers to research, consider and implement programs that best meet their needs and legislative requirements. Diversion at multi-residential buildings has been identified as a second-stage priority option under the Region's Waste Management Master Plan, and will be considered in the future.

What about businesses? Why don't you make them recycle/green bin?

The Region of Waterloo does not have any authority to enforce garbage and recycling collection for businesses. The Province of Ontario sets waste rules for businesses, and while they are required to recycle, the Province does not have any requirements for composting. Businesses are responsible for their own garbage collection. Private companies are hired to take away the garbage and recycling and decide where to take the material (many private haulers take business garbage out of the Region to commercial landfills for disposal).

What other changes could we see in the future?

  • Reduced bag limit. By 2019, the bag limit is expected to be reduced from four bags/cans to three every other week
  • Multi-residential waste strategy that helps to improve waste diversion. Regional staff have committed to examining waste management and diversion programs for multi-residential properties beginning in 2019.
  • Thermal treatment of garbage. The Waste Management Master Plan, endorsed by Council in November 2014, recommends further research into thermal treatment of waste as the preferred option for residual garbage once the landfill is full. A thermal treatment feasibility study is underway, and information is available on the Region's website.

Why raise tipping fees for revenue, while asking residents to reduce the waste going to landfill?

About half of the waste that comes to the landfill is brought here by commercial customers. Tipping fees help pay to manage the landfill site and transfer stations, as well as minimize the Waste Management impact on the tax base.

What can I do to get used to the collection schedule and reduce my garbage?

  • Fully participate in curbside programs (e.g. blue box, green bin and yard waste) and drop-off programs (e.g. household hazardous waste, Goodwill and Habitat for Humanity donation centres).
  • Consider these waste reduction tips.
  • If you are not green binning but want to (since it can reduce your garbage by 30 to 50 per cent!) pick up your free green bin at either our Cambridge administration office (201 Savage Drive, Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.) or Waterloo administration office (925 Erb Street West, Gate 1, Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.), as supplies last.
  • Download the My-Waste app. This app has several functions to help you - including quick links to waste management information and reminders for collection schedules. See below for download details. An online version is available, too!Advertisement for My Waste app

What if someone dumps an extra bag in front of
my house? What about roadside dumping of garbage?

Please report these issues to our call centre available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 519-575-4400.

Why are green bins are blue boxes being stacked now after they are emptied?

  • To help prevent breakage.
  • To prevent empty bins from blowing around.
  • So our staff can easily see that material has been collected.