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.

Changes to the blue box program

The Province of Ontario is changing the blue box program. Discover what Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is and how it will affect blue box recycling in the near future.

On March 2, 2024, the Region of Waterloo shifts its blue box program to the producers known as Circular Materials (CM).

So, what does that mean to you during transition from 2023 to 2025?

Things that stay the same:

  • Your collection day won’t change
  • Keep doing the two-box sort
  • What goes in the blue box doesn’t change
  • Green bin, garbage, yard waste and bulky collections continue as is

Things that change:

You will contact Circular Materials’ contractors about…

  • Blue box issues or concerns
  • Getting new or exchanging broken blue boxes

Circular Materials Contractors: 

Starting March 2, 2024 reach out to Circular Materials contactors for blue box assistance.

If you live in Cambridge, Kitchener or Waterloo contact:

Miller Waste Systems - Email: area22@millerwaste.ca, Phone: 1-888-852-3450

If you live in North Dumfries, Wellesley, Wilmot or Woolwich contact:

Emterra Environmental - Email: customercareont@emterra.ca, Phone: 1-888-597-1541

In 2026, Circular Materials will have assumed responsibility for all municipal recycling collection and unified the program across Ontario.

Blue Box Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)

In June 2021, the Province of Ontario announced a new recycling regulation that hugely changes Ontario’s blue box program.
  • The new Blue Box Regulation (amended) shifts the responsibility for providing recycling services, including funding and operation, away from municipalities onto producers who create products and packaging. This shift includes the curbside collection, blue box material sorting, processing and recycling of material, as well as resident education and promotion.
  • Shifting all of Ontario’s current municipally run blue box programs to full producer responsibility will take place over a three-year period between July 2023 and December 2025.
  • The Region of Waterloo will continue to manage the curbside collection of garbage, bulky items and appliances, green bins, yard waste and seasonal holiday tree collection.

 Benefits of EPR

 The benefits of having producers of products and packaging waste responsible for the collection and recycling of the material include:
  • unifying the blue box program across Ontario starting in 2026
  • potentially decreasing and/or improving packaging
  • potentially moving more waste away from the landfill after recovery targets come into effect in 2026 and onward

 EPR related Council Reports

March 5, 2024 - Blue Box Transition Details Update

August 15, 2023 - Blue Box Transition Update - Next Steps (report and presentation slides page 185)

January 10, 2023 - Blue Box Transition Update

August 10, 2021 - Blue Box Regulation (O. Reg. 321-21) Update

June 16, 2020 - TES –WMS – 20-02 Blue Box Transition to Full Producer Responsibility Update and Committee Resolution

June 18, 2019 - Blue Box Program Update

 Organizations leading EPR

Circular Materials (CM)
Canadian Beverage Container Recycling Association (CBCRA)
Ministry of Public and Business Service Delivery, 1-800-889-9768 
Province of Ontario - Waste Management page
Province of Ontario – News Release June 2021, Enhancing the Blue Box Program
Resource Productivity & Recovery Authority (RPRA)


If your blue box was not collected, check for an Oops sticker. The collection crew might have left a sticker indicating a problem otherwise for any recycling collection inquiries please reach out to your recycling contractor.  They can be contacted about replacement boxes, missed collection and any other recycling questions.

If you live in Cambridge, Kitchener or Waterloo contact:

Miller Waste Systems - Email: area22@millerwaste.ca, Phone: 1-888-852-3450

If you live in North Dumfries, Wellesley, Wilmot or Woolwich contact:

Emterra Environmental - Email: customercareont@emterra.ca, Phone: 1-888-597-1541

What are the correct blue boxes to use?

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

blue recycling can and a cardboard box both with red x on themContainers that are not acceptable to use for blue box collection include blue plastic "recycling" cans, wheeled carts, laundry hampers, storage totes, blue plastic "recycling" bags, large clear or opaque bags, and cardboard boxes.

Do you have a broken blue box?

For any recycling collection inquiries please reach out to your recycling contractor.  They can be contacted about replacement boxes, missed collection and any other recycling questions.

If you live in Cambridge, Kitchener or Waterloo contact:

Miller Waste Systems - Email: area22@millerwaste.ca, Phone: 1-888-852-3450

If you live in North Dumfries, Wellesley, Wilmot or Woolwich contact:

Emterra Environmental - Email: customercareont@emterra.ca, Phone: 1-888-597-1541

Do you 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).
    • A maximum height of 20 inches for both Containers Only and Paper and Plastic Bags blue boxes.
  • Contractors will only collect from blue boxes that are the correct size, and does not reimburse for blue box purchases. 

What goes in?

Contractors collect recyclables that are prepared and sorted using the two-box sorting system. The two-box sorting system is when you sort containers into one blue box and paper products and plastic 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.

Get introduced to the two-box sort.

Box 1 - Containers Only 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 

Preparation tips: 

Empty. Rinse. Do not bag. Put items in loose.

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
  • All household paper, including newspaper, magazines, writing paper, envelopes, and plain wrapping paper (put in an empty boxboard box like a cereal box, paper bag or accepted plastic bag).
  • Boxboard, such as cracker and cereal boxes, paper tubes, paper egg cartons, and paper take-out trays (flatten, discard liner bags, and stuff inside a empty boxboard box, paper or accepted plastic bag. Or bundle no larger than 75 x 75 x 20 centimetres (30 x 30 x 8 inches).
  • Plastic bags, only bread bags, milk bags, retail and grocery bags, mulch and soil bags, newspaper bags, salt bags, and outer wrap from packages of toilet paper, diapers, etc. (clean, stuff inside one bag and tie handles shut) 

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, hard/soft cover books. 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.

 

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
  • Prevent litter! Please don't overfill your blue boxes. Use these tips to prepare your blue boxes on windy days.
  • Use a rubber spatula to scrape out remaining food and or gently rinse containers with water. 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.

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). 

Frequently asked questions

1. 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:

  • The item may cause health and safety concerns for collection staff. For example, broken glass is not accepted in the Blue Box program since collection staff hand-sort recyclables.
  • We don't have a processor who can turn the material into something else.
  • The item is banned from collection, such as electronics.

2. 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.

3. 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:

  • Crush or stack metal cans.
  • Flatten milk and juice cartons.
  • 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.
  • Stack paper coffee cups.
  • Stuff flattened boxboard inside of an larger unflattened boxboard box, such as a cereal box.
  • 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.

4. Why can't I recycle stand-up pouches?

The layers of different types of plastics that make these pouches lightweight and strong, are difficult to separate and recycle.

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.

5. 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.

6. 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. 

7. 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)

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

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

Contact Us