Blue Box

This page contains information for all blue box users. If you live at an apartment building or townhouse complex and use large recycling carts, please go to our Cart recycling page.

Watch this short video on how to sort and prepare your recyclables. Regional employee beside a blue box

Wondering how to recycle or dispose of a certain item? Ask the Waste Whiz.

Check out the Blue Box Special Edition of our electronic newsletter!

 If your blue box was not collected,

  • Check for an "Oops!" sticker. The collection crew might have left a sticker indicating a problem.
  • If there is no sticker and your blue box was set out by 7 a.m. on your collection day, please keep it out at the curb and use our online form to report your concern. Or contact our Call Centre at 519-575-4400, but please note that we are experiencing a high volume of calls at this time (related to the pandemic).

Did you know that recycling is a proud tradition in Waterloo Region? The first Blue Box program was invented here!

What are the correct blue boxes to use?

If you are a new homeowner or renter in Waterloo Region, have moved within the last six months and receive curbside collection, bring proof of your new/changed address and pick up a set of blue boxes:

  • Cambridge Waste Management site, 201 Savage Drive, Cambridge. Go to the scale house and staff will provide directions. Monday to Saturday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Waterloo Waste Management site, 925 Erb Street West, Gate 2, Waterloo, Household Hazardous Waste Depot, Monday to Saturday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The set of blue boxes helps you sort your recyclables into two blue boxes: a smaller blue box for paper products and plastic bags, and the larger blue box for glass, metal, plastic and carton containers.

Do you have a broken blue box?

Please bring it to one of our depots listed above, and get a replacement. We will recycle your broken box. 

Do need extra blue boxes? 

These can be purchased at local retailers; please purchase blue boxes that we can collect safely and efficiently: 

  • A reusable, rectangular plastic box.Containers only blue box, Paper and plastic bags blue box and a close-up photo of the lip around the box
  • A rim around the top so the driver can lift it and hook it on the side of the truck for sorting.
  • Made from rigid plastic which does not bend or give when lifted full.
  • Correct sizes:
    • Blue boxes for Containers Only (for cans, cartons, bottles, and jars) no larger than 68 to 91 litres (18 to 24 gallons).
    • Blue boxes for Paper Products and Plastic Bags (for paper, boxes, flyers, and plastic bags) no larger than 45 to 60 litres (12 to 16 gallons).
  • The Region of Waterloo will only collect from blue boxes that are the correct size, and does not reimburse for blue box purchases. 

Containers that are not acceptable to use for blue box collection include wheeled carts, laundry hampers, storage totes, blue plastic "recycling" bags, blue plastic "recycling" cans, large clear or opaque bags, and cardboard boxes.

What goes in?

We collect recyclables that are prepared and sorted using the two-box sorting system. The two-box sorting system is when you sort "containers" (cans, cartons, bottles and jars) into one blue box and "paper products and paper bags" (newspaper, flattened and bundled boxes, and bagged bags) into another blue box. The advantages of this sorting system are:

Blue boxes sorted
  1. Convenience.  A larger blue box is allowed for containers. This will help you store and set-out more recyclables in one blue box.
  2. Efficiency. Properly sorted blue boxes help collection staff sort into the two compartments of their trucks.

Box 1 - "Containers" blue box

Accepts the following types of packaging that contained a food, beverage, cleaning, personal or pet care product:

Assorted recyclable containers going into the Containers Only blue box

  • Cartons, such as drinking boxes, milk or juice cartons
  • Glass bottles and jars 
  • Metal cans, including empty and dry paint cans (remove lids), empty aerosol cans
  • Paper cups, such as take-out coffee cups (remove lid and put both pieces in)
  • Plastic bottles, jars, and clamshells with plastic identification symbols ("recycling symbol") one through seven: Recycling symbols 1 to 7. Note: Plastic flower pots/trays, and plastic containers that contained a vehicle fluid (antifreeze, windshield washer fluid, etc.) are also accepted.
  • Aluminum foil wrap and pie plates/trays 

How to prepare: 

Putting acceptable materials in the Containers Only blue box

Empty. Rinse. Do not bag. Put items in loose. Watch this short video.

COVID-19 update:  If you are sick, do not put in any items that touched your face, such as pop cans, and juice cartons. NO broken glass, dishware, light bulbs, containers with food, appliances, car parts, candy wrappers, chip bags, cardboard cans, coffee pods, clothes baskets and hangers, straws, Styrofoam, toys, wooden orange crates. 

Box 2 - "Paper products and plastic bags" blue box

List of plastic bags accepted in the Region's recycling program

NO gloves, masks, sanitizing wipes, stand-up pouches, zippered bags, liner bags from cereal/cracker boxes and other bags that make a "crinkle" sound, bags that contained meat or cheese, biodegradable bags, mesh bags, bubble wrap, diapers, foil or plastic wrapping paper, bows, ribbons. No furnace filters.

How to prepare cardboard for recyclingCorrugated cardboard: 

Flatten and size no larger than 75 x 75 x 20 centimetres (30 x 30 x 8 inches), tie together with twine. Place in between or beside your blue boxes.

Wondering if an item is accepted in our Blue Box program? Ask the Waste Whiz!

Thank you for sorting it out and recycling it right. 

Collection schedule and rules

Everyone has a part to play in sorting and recycling - the homeowner, collection crews and the Region's sorting facility

  • Set out your blue boxes by 7 a.m on your collection day.
  • Collection continues as usual on all holidays, except for Christmas Day and Boxing Day. When these holidays fall on week days, collection will be changed and we will post updates on our website.
  • Different trucks pick up different materials starting at 7 a.m. (they work into the evening). The time that your items are collected will vary week to week depending on various factors, such as routing changes, road construction, and weather conditions.
  • There is no limit to the number of blue boxes you can set out each week. 
  • The maximum weight for each blue box is 23 kilograms (50 pounds).
  • Banned and uncollectable material, such as broken glass, masks, syringes, bagged containers, and oversized cardboard, will be stickered and left behind by collection staff.
  • If someone in your household is sick, do not recycle items that might have touched their face, such as pop cans and juice cartons. Place these items in the garbage instead.
  • Keep your blue boxes visible and in reach for collection staff (not behind a snowbank or parked car).
  • Put your metal, plastic, glass and carton containers in your blue box loose - do not bag. Our sorting centre does not have equipment to remove the bags, and bagged containers cannot be marketed/sold. Each type of material (carton, metal, plastic, glass) has to be separated and sent to different end markets/use
  • If you have a collection concern, please use our online form.

Options for dealing with recyclables

  1. Ontario Deposit Return program - Bag it Back! Return and recycle all alcohol containers, including cans, bottles and cartons, through this program.
  2. Reuse! Consider reusing jars for storing dry goods. Look for ways online to repurpose and "upcycle" all kinds of packaging.
  3. Drop off recyclables at the Region's waste management sites (fees will apply). 

Tips

  • Sort it right by using two blue boxes: one for cans, cartons, bottles and jars, and another one for paper products and plastic bags. 
  • Download our waste app to set waste collection reminders. 
  • Prevent litter! Please don't overfill your blue boxes. Use these tips to prepare your blue boxes on windy days.
  • Conserve water when rinsing containers. After washing dishes, use the dishwater to rinse out cans, cartons, bottles and jars.
  • Write your address on each blue box using a permanent marker.  
  • We have stickers to help your household sort recyclables. Please email us your order or call our Customer Service Call Centre at 519-575-4400, available 24 hours a day, every day.

Containers only blue box stickerPaper and plastic bags blue box sticker

 

 

 

 

Frequently asked questions

Why can't all types of packaging and products be accepted in the Blue Box program?

Some items cannot go into the blue box because:

Styrofoam, chip bag, plastic cutlery and straws
  1. The item may cause health and safety concerns for collection staff. For instance, if you have COVID-19 do not recycle any items that touched your face, such as pop cans and juice cartons. As well, broken glass is not accepted in the Blue Box program since collection staff hand-sort recyclables.
  2. We don't have a processor who can turn the material into something else.
  3. The item is banned from collection, such as electronics.

What does the "recycling symbol" mean?

 Plastic resin identification symbols

The triangular loop made out of arrows (Mobius loop), as pictured above, is a symbol that identifies the type of plastic from which an item is made. Each number inside of the loop represents a different plastic. This symbol does not mean it is accepted in our local recycling program.

  • The type of plastic packaging we accept in our program are "containers"; they had to contain something when you purchased the product, such as a plastic jug that contained soap, or a plastic bag that contained bread.
  • Some plastic items, such as toys or storage bins, may have these symbols on them, but they are not accepted in our Blue Box program.

Please note that Number 6 plastic is Polystyrene. This plastic comes in different forms and some of these forms are not accepted in our Blue Box program. Examples include plastic cutlery, Styrofoam meat trays, packing blocks and peanuts.

How can I fit more into my blue box?

 If your blue box is overflowing with recyclables, it can create litter. Here are some tips to fit more into your blue box:

  1. Crush or stack metal cans.
  2. Flatten milk and juice cartons.
  3. Flatten plastic bottles. For example, take the lid off of a plastic water bottle, squish the bottle and put the lid back on so it remains flattened.
  4. Stack paper coffee cups.
  5. Stuff flattened boxboard inside of an larger unflattened boxboard box, such as a cereal box.
  6. Flatten and bundle corrugated cardboard boxes no larger than 75 x 75 x 20 centimetres (30 x 30 x 8 inches) and place beside your blue box.

Why can't I recycle stand-up pouches?

Stand-up pouches are a very common type of packaging, but are not accepted in our program. The layers of different types of plastics that make these pouches lightweight and strong, are difficult to separate and recycle.Examples of stand-up pouches

Current recycling markets want plastic bags which are made out of only one type of plastic. This allows for the bags to be turned into pellets that have consistent qualities, including melting temperature. These pellets can then be used to make other products, such as garbage bags. Costly problems are created if different types of plastic/pellets are mixed in, such as holes in garbage bags.

Lids and Labels - on or off?

  • Remove a large lid if it is a different type of material than the rest of the container. Examples of this would include removing a metal lid on a glass pickle jar, or a plastic lid on a paper coffee cup. This helps each type of material to be recycled separately. For instance, large metal lids will get picked up by the magnet at our sorting centre and recycled with steel cans. Please remove all lids on paint cans. Paint cans need to be empty and dry, and have their lid removed to ensure they are safe to pick up.
  • Keep small lids on. If possible, squish the bottle first, then replace the lid to maximize the space in your blue box, and prevent litter.
  • Labels can stay on. In the early days of our recycling program, labels had to be removed from food and beverage containers, but not any longer. Recycling equipment and processes have advanced and deal with labels. However, if a paper label is easy to remove, you can add it to your other paper for recycling.

Can I recycle cardboard cans?

A cardboard can is made out of mix of materials, including a metal top and/or bottom, a paper tube, and sometimes a foil peel-away freshness seal and plastic lid. Frozen juice, coffee, and chips are some of the products typically packaged in cardboard cans.

In our recycling program, each type of material has to be sorted and sent to a different recycling market. If cardboard cans are taken apart, plastic lids and metal ends can be recycled with other food and beverage containers, but the other parts including the paper tube (which contains too much glue for paper markets to accept) have to be put in the garbage. If the cardboard can is not disassembled, then it has to be put in the garbage. 

Can I use a lid or net to cover my blue box? What about using carts?

No, at this time blue box lids and nets, and carts are not acceptable to use in our Blue Box program.

Background: Overfilled blue boxes and high winds can create litter and reduce the amount of recyclables collected. To try to find a solution to these issues, municipalities have tested various types of lids and nets on blue boxes. Unfortunately, lids and nets create several challenges and increase collection time and costs. Some of the issues include difficulty in removing, becoming entangled, blowing away after collection, and freezing in cold weather. 

In many municipalities, all recyclables are collected together in one cart. While this reduces litter, it affects the quality of recyclables:

  • materials are difficult to separate, such as glass shards in newsprint, and 
  • high levels of unacceptable material (rates can range as high as 25 per cent)

In comparison, the Region of Waterloo's two-box sort system produces quality, marketable recyclables. Our rate of unacceptable material averages between six to eight per cent.

As well, it is important to note that the responsibility for blue box recycling is changing in Ontario, shifting away from municipalities. By the end of 2025, producers of the different types of recyclables are expected to be fully responsible to set up, monitor and report on blue box programs. Given this, the Region of Waterloo is not making any changes or additions to our local recycling program. 

How can I make sure my cardboard is collected? Why do I have to bundle it?

More online shopping and home deliveries are resulting in more cardboard. But for collection crews to be able to fit it into their truck, and to prevent litter in our community, cardboard has to be prepared properly. Here are the steps to take:

  1. Sort: Remove any plastic, foil and other non-cardboard items. If the cardboard has large food/grease stains (such as on pizza boxes), tear off the stained part and put it in your green bin. Keep the clean part for your blue box. If the cardboard has any coatings (such as paint or wax), put it in the garbage.
  2. Flatten: Remove tape and staples so you can flatten it.Photo of how to flatten and bundle corrugated cardboard for collection
  3. Size: Cut down or fold over pieces which are wider or longer than 75 centimetres (30 inches).
  4. Bundle: Stack cardboard no higher than 20 centimetres (8 inches), and tie with string.
  5. Set it out beside or in between your blue boxes on your collection day.

Properly prepared cardboard also makes collection efficient. More cardboard is collected and recycled, and bundles are easy to pick up compared with loose pieces. As well, cardboard stuffed in boxes can fall out, and unflattened boxes would reduce truck capacity.

Are there other options to recycle it? Yes. Cardboard can be dropped off at the Region's waste management sites (fees will apply). At our sites, cardboard still has to be flattened to fit through the fence which is around the bin, but oversized pieces are accepted.

What happens to my recyclables? Where do they go?

Our collection contractors drop off blue box recyclables at our Nyle Ludloph Materials Recycling Centre, located at 925 Erb Street West (Gate 1), Waterloo. For more information (including a video) about our recycling centre, go to our Landfill and Recycling Centre page.

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