Waste reduction and reuse tips

This page offers information to residents of Waterloo Region to help them Reduce, Reuse and Recycle more, and provides details about our waste drop-off facilities. Note: Our waste drop-off sites are closed to residents on statutory and designated holidays. 

Waste reduction tips to use every day

  1. Reduce food waste. See section below.  Recycle all your food scraps and other organics by using the green binThis can reduce your garbage by over 50 per cent!
  2. Adopt "green" buying habits.
    • Buy only what you need; resist impulse purchases.
    • Before buying new, check out what is available at local re-use stores.
    • Buy local. Purchasing food grown and products made locally reduces the impacts of transportation.
    • Look for items that are durable and have recycled content.
    • Purchase items with no to little packaging. Ensure any packaging is accepted in our Blue Box program.
  3. Repair items when possible, including furniture, cellular phones, computers, etc.
  4. Reuse. Use refillable bottles for water and coffee. Take cloth bags, and reusable containers (BYOC - Bring Your Own Container) when shopping. Switch to cloth napkins and towels. Save wrapping, gift bags, and ribbons for reuse. Become a member of the local library
  5. Donate used clothing and other household items, bicycles, windows, doors, lumber and many other items through residential reduce and recycle options in our community..
  6. Discuss the 3R's (reduce, reuse and recycle) with your family. Make sure they understand how to sort properly and why it is so important.
  7. Compost in your backyard. Check our Backyard Composting page for details.
  8. Grasscycle. Mulch your grass when mowing by leaving it on your lawn to provide nutrients for a healthier lawn.(Did you know that grass has been banned from landfill since 2003?!)
  9. Reduce household hazardous waste. Look online for ways to make your own "green" cleaners, furniture polish, and laundry detergent. 
  10. Rethink your use of plastics and recycle all plastics that are accepted in our Blue Box program. Learn about, and consider joining "zero plastic waste" movement of Canada.
  11. Check out the National Zero Waste Council's website for inspiration and information about waste prevention, circular economy, events and more.
  12. Learn about climate change and what is being done locally. Go to ClimateActionWR.ca. Check out their blog, make the climate action pledge, sign up for their newsletter, and consider volunteering. There are resources for residents, farmers and other sectors of our community.

How to reduce food waste


Waste reduction tips for holidays and celebrations

Celebrating? Use these waste reduction tips for your next get together:

  1. Reduce food waste. If it's a potluck, suggest what guests can bring. Have containers available to portion out and share the leftovers.
  2. Whether you are buying groceries or gifts, make sure all packaging is accepted in our Blue Box program.
  3. Stock up on kitchen container and green bin liner bags.
  4. Set up an "eco depot". Place your green bin beside blue boxes and garbage can for an easy-to-use sorting station for you and your guests.
  5. Use reusable dishware and napkins. Or recycle paper ones in your green bin.
  6. If you are buying presents, consider giving the gift of an experience such as tickets for a festival or museum. Consider digital gift cards. Donate to a local charity on behalf of your loved one. Or give gifts that give to our earth such as refillable water bottles, travel coffee mugs and litter-less lunch kits. Share your skills and make your gift (bake, knit, scrapbook special photos, create a poem, carve or weld a masterpiece, create "coupons" for chores or special things such as an extra story at bedtime for your children).
  7. Buy durable decorations that will be long-lasting. Or make your own decorations out of stuff you have around your house (there's lots of ideas online). Make gift tags out of old greeting cards.
  8. If your celebration produces more organics than your green bin holds, put the organics in an acceptable liner bag, and place on top of your green bin for collection. (If you have organics on a regular basis though, pick up an extra green bin.)
  9. Recycle alcohol containers and packaging through the Ontario Deposit Return program, Bag it Back recycling program.
  10. Make the most of out of wrapping (and unwrapping) gifts. Make the wrapping part of the present (such as a scarf, towel). Reuse cereal or cracker boxes, cookie tins, or pages from comics or magazines. When unwrapping presents have
  • a box to collect gift bags, bows and ribbons, and tissue paper for reuse
  • grocery-sized plastic bag(s) to recycle any paper gift wrap 
  • a garbage can or bag for anything that you don't want to reuse or can't be recycled (such as foil wrapping paper, Styrofoam, and bubble wrap), and
  • choose a person to flatten and bundle corrugated cardboard.

Waste reduction tips for New Years

The New Year can be a time to rethink our habits. Below are some resolutions to consider. Perhaps start with one or two of these ideas, and then introduce others each month.

Skip single use items.

  • Swap plastic bags for reusable ones.
  • Rethink waste - Don't waste another dayBring your own water bottle and travel mug.
  • Carry your own reusable cutlery and straw.

Rethink purchases.

  • Consider buying used at local stores or at auctions, or borrowing from friends or family.
  • Buy locally-produced items.
  • Repair instead of purchasing new.
  • Do your research to help determine if the item has recycled content, if the company has environmental practices or accreditation, etc.
  • Plan menus and take stock of what you already have on hand before going to the grocery store.
  • Rethink gift-giving for the year - perhaps make gifts, or give a special heirloom instead.

Reduce packaging and clutter.

Strive for zero waste. It's an ambitious goal, but many people have documented their experiences and tips online. (Note: "waste" means recyclables and garbage!)

How to sort waste after Valentines Day

Celebrating your loved one is never a waste when you use the green bin, and do the two-box soValentine with green bin "You fill me up"rt (or the three-cart sort if you are in a multi-residential building).

To put in your green bin:

  • candy, chocolates and cinnamon hearts
  • cheese, ice cream and other dairy
  • cookies, cake, bread, crackers
  • grapes, apples and other fruit (including peelings, cores, seeds)
  • sweet peas and other veggies
  • honey, syrup, sugar, sprinkles and baking ingredients
  • roast beef, salmon, and other meat (including bones, fat, grease)
  • paper products such as facial tissues, paper candy wrappers
  • cold wood ashes and wooden toothpicks

 For the Containers Only blue box:

  • aluminum take-out trays
  • cans* (pop, whipped cream)Blue box and green bin "We go together"
  • cartons* (juice, milk, cream)
  • glass bottles and jars* (food, beverage)
  • clear, hard plastic packaging (such as for electronics)
  • plastic food and beverage containers

*Return alcoholic beverage packaging to The Beer Store through the Bag it Back, Ontario Deposit Return program. 

For the Paper Products and Plastic Bags blue box:

  • boxboard (gift boxes, gift wrap tubes)
  • cards, gift wrap (remove bows and ribbons)
  • magazines, catalogues, books
  • corrugated cardboard (size and bundle no larger than 75 centimetres wide by 75 centimetres long by 20 centimetres thick or 30 inches wide by 30 inches long by eight inches thick)

For the garbage:

  • broken drinking glasses (wrap in several layers of paper or put in a sturdy cardboard box, and seal)
  • candles
  • foil gift wrap, bows and ribbons, cellophane, bubble wrap
  • plastic cutlery, plastic plates
  • Styrofoam

Springtime holidays and activities

Spring cleaning

April is Earth Month

This is a time for you and your household to reflect on the state of our environment and re-commit to doing more to honour the precious resources of our world.

But the challenge is, what more can you do? First, learn more about your environmental footprint and calculate it. Next, rethink your daily activities. Make changes to be a conserver, rather than a consumer.


  • Buy items that are durable and reusable, such as baskets. 
  • For decorations, consider potted plants - perhaps ones that can be planted outside later. 
  • Make your own decorative eggs at home using real eggs (use the yolk and white for cooking).


Halloween is scary enough without being buried under waste! Here are ways to not horrify collection crews:

Preparing for Halloween:

  • Buy candy in bulk. Ensure packaging is recyclable. Or consider giving out non-food items (ideally made from recycled materials) such as pencils, erasers, bookmarks, reusable bags.Scary jack o'lantern
  • Make your own decorations. Check online for ideas and instructions on Halloween crafts and decor. Repurpose items have around your home. And keep them so you can reuse them next year.
  • Make your own costumes. Rethink the clothing you already have or shop at a local second-hand store. 
  • When carving your pumpkin,
    • Lay out sheets of newspaper to make clean-up easy. Roll it up and put it in your green bin or backyard composter.
    • Keep the seeds, clean, and then toast in the oven for a snack. Use the offcuts in soups, muffins or breads. Check for recipes online.

After Halloween: Jack o'lantern on top of a green bin

  • Let your jack o'lantern live on... as compost! Remove candles and decorations, and put it
    • Beside yard waste containers/bags (if it is your week for yard waste collection),
    • On top of or beside your green bin, or
    • In your backyard composter (chop it up first).
  • If you have unwanted candy, unwrap and put wrappers in the garbage, and the candy in the green bin.

Wintertime holidays

Make it a season of "light" with these ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle:

  • Put greenery and houseplants in your green bin (remove any wire and decorations). Also, green bin all food scraps from dough to burnt cookies.
  • "Tree-cycle"! Set out your natural Christmas/holiday tree during our special collection period. Check the Holiday Collection section of our Collection Matters page for details. Or check online for ways to reuse your natural tree, such as for coasters, birdfeeders and more.
  • If you no longer want your artificial tree, consider donating it to local charities, nursing homes, etc.
  • Consider hosting a post-Christmas potluck to use up the leftover turkey and trimmings.
  • Rethink traditions. Talk with your family about starting new traditions that are earth-friendly. Instead of everyone buying a present for everyone else, buy one present for the whole family, or draw names, or play a "gift-giving game" (there are many variations online). As a family or with friends, consider volunteering, caroling, painting, rock climbing or some other activity.
  • Give old gifts new life. Thoughtful re-gifting reduces waste, and could include antique or heirloom pieces that have special meaning to your family.

Reduce packaging - Bring Your Own Container (BYOC)

Bring Your Own Container (BYOC): Some local businesses such as restaurants, bakeries, grocery stores, butchers and fishmongers, bulk food and baking supplies stores, cheese shops, tea shops, pharmacies, and other types of stores will allow you to use your own containers when buying food, detergents, etc. This reduces waste, such as polystyrene trays, plastic wrap, and plastic bottles, and other types of containers. How does it work?

  1. Call ahead and check with the business. With COVID-19, their hours and services available may have changed.
  2. Bring clean and dry, sealable and undamaged containers from home to the business. Containers must be durable and made from non-porous material such as metal, glass or food grade plastic. Containers must be in very good condition with no stains, cracks or chipped pieces. Lids must have a tight seal to protect your food and prevent leaks/spills.
  3. Tell the salesperson that you want to use your own container. Give the salesperson your container to zero out the scale and weigh only the material inside. Note: Food businesses reserve the right to refuse any container they feel does not meet food safety standards.

  4. Pay, and take your container home to be reused.

    • When transporting perishable food, consider using a clean, insulated thermal bag or "cooler" to keep hot foods hot; or with ice packs to keep cold foods cold (especially during warmer weather).
    • Refrigerate food within two hours of picking it up.
    • Please remember to always use Safe Food Handling Practices

3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) Directory for residents

Welcome to the Reuse and Recycle Directory for residents. Under each waste category are links to Region of Waterloo programs or other local organizations and businesses that deal with that material. 

Please note that we are providing this list for information only. We do not recommend, endorse, or guarantee the service of the the businesses and organizations external to the Region of Waterloo. 

Due to COVID-19, please contact the business ahead of time to check if they are open and any changes to their terms of service.

General considerations:

  • Consider shopping at or donating your items (such as antiques, appliances, books, clothing, furniture and other household goods, musical instruments, sports equipment, toys) to local thrift stores, reuse stores, charities and other organizations. Other options could include: consignment, renting, selling online, hosting a garage sale. For example, the Library of Things receives donations or lends out everything from tools to tents (kwlot.ca). 
  • If your item needs repaired, look for local do-it-yourself repair events or stores.
  • For metal appliances that don't work and other metal goods, contact local scrap metal dealers/recyclers, and auto wreckers

Alcohol containers and packaging: Bag it Back program, Ontario Deposit Return program. Return to The Beer Store locations.

Automotive fluids and oil filters


BBQ tanks and other pressurized cylinders


  • Cycling into the Future: Arrange porch pick-up of your unwanted bike. Bikes will be refurbished and donated to people in need in our community. Contact Sharon to arrange details:  sharon@cyclingintothefuture.com, 519-240-5526.

Blue Box materials

Building materials:

  • Habitat for Humanity Restore - habitatwr.ca: Donate reusable building materials, purchase building materials at their stores.  

Child car seats:

  • ATMO Rethink Recycling - atmo.ca
  • Project Get Reel - redpropeller.ca

Cleaning products and other chemicals

Compost, composting:


Dog food bags: Check with your pet food supply store. Some may have bins to collect (some types of) empty bags.


Electronic waste (e-waste): 

  • Electronic Products Recycling Association (EPRA) program: This is a province-wide recycling program for electronic waste including computers, keyboards, phones, printers and more. These items are banned from curbside collection. Visit EPRA's website for information about proper disposal of electronic waste, including the most up-to-date list of free drop-off locations, and how to wipe your device.
  • Check with your cell phone provider about take-back programs, such as the Bell Blue Box program
  • Does your device need repaired? Look for local cell phone and computer repair shops.
  • Check for local shops that deal in used games, records, gaming systems, cameras, audio systems. Local thrift stores and pawnbrokers may also sell used electronics.
  • For VHS tapes, computer disks and other items, check out diversion options at Project Get Reel - redpropeller.ca.

Eyeglasses and contact lenses:

  • For donating eyeglasses, contact your eye care specialist or local vision care stores. 
  • Bausch+Lomb Every Contact Counts recycling program https://www.bausch.ca/en-ca/every-contact-counts/

Fertilizers and pesticides

Food, food waste

Home audits

  • R.E.E.P. Green Solutions - reepgreen.ca provides home energy efficiency services, workshops and more.


  • Terracycle www.terracycle.com/en-CA/ - has programs to recycle various products and packaging from coffee pods to personal care. 

Paint and other coatings.

Pet waste

Sidewalk salt:  

  • Your Salt Connection - www.yoursaltconnection.com For sidewalk salt. Sign up for their service and pay a $2.00 deposit for a pail. When your pail is empty, they will pick it up and replace it with a full one.

Syringes Note: Sharps such as syringes, need to be placed in approved syringe disposal containers (available from your pharmacy)


  • Go to the website for Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority (RPRA) to for information about this Ontario stewardship program, and to find local businesses participating in it. Up to four tires are accepted for free. Tires from most on and off-the-road passenger, industrial and agricultural vehicles are accepted

Toy Exchange club: toyexchange.ca/

Wooden pallets

Yard waste


Other ideas:

  • Terracycle.com - for recycling various products and packaging


Contact Us