Top 10 Common Recycling Mistakes

Posted on October 21, 2017

For many of us, recycling is second-nature. It’s just part of proper waste diversion in our homes. The city’s blue carts are only the start of that process, however, and there are many other elements to recycling, such as electronics recycling, propane tank recycling, and mattress recycling. Did you know that you can find where most things go by looking them up on The City’s website? Try their What Goes Where? page.

For what’s left to go into the blue cart, we’ve all got into habits in what we toss in the recycling and sometimes those aren’t things that can go through the system we have in Calgary. This week is Waste Reduction Week and we wanted to help you improve your waste diversion game. So, here are 10 common items that we think we can recycle, but we can’t. (If you live in a multi-family dwelling, find out what recycler services your building and give them a call to see if it’s the same!)

10. Loose Plastic Bags. The City’s facility can’t easily sort loose plastic bags. The City website suggests bundling cleaned plastic bags into another, clear plastic bag, and tying it shut. This goes for plastic wrap, sandwich bags, and freezer bags as well.  Plastic bags that don’t stretch, like from cereal boxes and bagged salads, should be put in the black cart.

9. Plastic Lids. This is something that you’ll see coming up multiple times, but objects need to be of a certain size for the facility to sort them properly. Plastic lids that are large enough (over 7.5cm or 3in) can go into the blue cart, but anything smaller needs to go into the black cart.

8. Polystyrene Foam (Styrofoam). All polystyrene foam is too light for the recycling facility to sort properly, even the stuff with a recycle symbol on it. This should all go into your black cart.

7. Plastic Cutlery. Plastic cutler, even if marked with a recycling symbol, is just too small for the recycling facility to process. It should go into your black cart. If you really need disposable cutlery, our EcoStore  carries compostable cutlery.

6. Single-Use Packets. The small packets that contain things like tea bags, hot chocolate, or protein powder are generally made of laminated paper, plastic, or foil. They are all too small and light to be recycled.

5. Fresh food seals and peel-off lids. These are the foil and plastic seals that are on condiment bottles and dairy products, like yoghurt or cottage cheese, or single-use peel-off lids, such as on pudding cups. None of these items are recycleable.

4. Envelopes and Bubble Mailers. Envelopes go in your blue cart, but you have to pull the plastic bit off of window envelopes first. Bubble mailers can’t go in the blue cart, as they are mixed materials.

3. Candy wrappers. All food bar wrappers, such as for granola and chocolate bars, and individual candy wrappers, such as those around separately-wrapped candies, are not recycleable.

2. Coffee Cup Lids. While single-use coffee cups are recycleable in Calgary, the lids are not. Even if they have a recycle symbol on them, they are too small.

1. Straws. A frequent offender, straws are too small and light to be recycled. If you need or like straws, we sell compostable ones and stainless steel ones, but in a restaurant, simply ask for “no straw.”

For any item going into your recycling, remember to make sure they are empty and clean – items that are not cleaned can contaminate more material around them, requiring all of those materials to be pulled out and sent to the landfill. Are there any items that we missed or any tricky ones that always confound you? Let us know! Leave a comment on Facebook or Twitter.