Your guide to recycling plastic in Waterloo Region

by Peter Speckner, Former Communications Coordinator

Everybody wants to recycle. After years of being told how awful it is to throw everything into the garbage, it has become ingrained into most of us to recycle to one degree or another.

recycle box with bottlesThe problems arise when there’s confusion as to what is recyclable and what is actual garbage. As much as we’d like to think that all plastics, glass containers, paper and cardboard products are recyclable, the truth is far from that.  This post was written to help differentiate which plastic products are recyclable and which are garbage. For general information on the Region of Waterloo’s recycling programs, check out this site.

And if you want a good laugh, this post was assigned to me when I mentioned to my boss that I recycled ALL plastic products (thinking they were all recyclable), and much to my chagrin, discovered I was wrong.  So I’ll share with you what I have learned.

Plastic bags for the paper and plastic bags blue box

recycable bagsOk, let’s start with the plastic bags that are able to be recycled and put into the paper and plastic bags blue box (NOTE: all acceptable bags should be placed into one bag, and the handles tied shut):

  • Bread bags (the ties are garbage)
  • Bulk food bags
  • Dry cleaning bags
  • Fruit & vegetable (fresh & frozen) bags
  • Garden bags (for soil & mulch)
  • Grocery & retail store bags
  • Milk outer & and (rinsed) inner bags
  • Newspaper bags
  • Salt bags, road & softener (cut off handles)
  • Zippered bags (Ziplock, resealable)
Plastic wrapping for the paper and plastic bags blue box

The outer plastic wrapping around some products can also be recycled such as diapers, napkins, paper towels.

Plastic items for the containers blue box

Finally, the remaining plastic items that can go into the containers blue box:

  • Bottles (pop/water/creams/shampoos – empty)
  • Spray or pump bottles (glass cleaner, hand soap)
  • Containers (margarine/yoghurt – empty and rinsed)
  • Single-serving cups (pudding/apple sauce – empty)
  • Trays (hold cookies or crackers)
  • Disposable plastic cups
  • Fruit baskets (for strawberries/blueberries)
No-no’s for the blue box

Even though the above lists may seem expansive, they’re not all-encompassing. There are still plastic products that should NOT be put into your blue box.  Here they are:

  • Bubble wrap
  • Crinkle bags (pasta, cereal liner bags)
  • Stretch-cling food wrap (Saran wrap)
  • Plastics and bags that have been in contact with meat, fish or cheese (health hazard)
  • Plastic toys
  • Plastic cutlery

That last list may be fairly short, but it is important to make sure those items don’t find their way into your blue box. They could contaminate the recyclable plastic at the recycling plant, pose a bio-hazard for employees, or just gum up the machinery because it can’t handle them.

Where to find more information

If you’re not sure if something is recyclable (not just plastic) in Waterloo Region, check out the Waste Whiz, a searchable site provided by the Region of Waterloo.

waste whiz icon




waste app iconIf you really want to be tech-savvy, download the My Waste app from the App Store or Google Play. It is used by the Region of Waterloo and has all the information you need, now available at your fingertips 24/7.  It even comes with a handy reminder-function to let you know when to set out the different types of recyclable goods!

Getting back to my own mistakes

You’re probably wondering now, since my guilty-ness is what sparked the necessity of this post, which items I am guilty of recycling that I shouldn’t have. Umm, that would be all of them! My ignorance had led me to throw all the no-no’s listed into the recycling bin.

Having written this post, I now know better, and will change my habits going forward. Hopefully you have learned something here today, and will improve your recycling habits as well.  The day may come when every plastic item will be recyclable, but until then, if we all recycle only the proper products, the whole process will work better.  And the planet will thank you for it!


  • By marlenedgm 20 Oct 2016

    Thanks for this helpful list!  I have one question though.  After looking at the Region of Waterloo website I thought that plastic cutlery was not recyclable, unless you purchase a special brand.  Can you please clarify?

  • By nappyrecycling 14 Feb 2017

    Recycling is one of the best ways to protect natural resources.If we can not recycling it then it is very harmful our
    beautiful world .So recycling waste and save world.

  • By [email protected] 06 Mar 2017

    You’re right Marlenedgm! We’ve updated the list.

  • By LynnCreeden 28 Jan 2018

    Can styrofoam trays with the recycle logo on them be put in the recycle box?

  • By Robert Honeycombe 05 Apr 2018

    Question; can the black containers for meat, so common at Zehrs, be recycled? I believe they are styrofoam, am I correct? Also, do the Ziplock bags need to have the “Zip” removed before recycling? One more; what can we do re the bread bag closures to avoid putting them into the garbage?

  • By Karen C 19 Aug 2018

    Something missing is the clear plastic that covers a lot of products that are hung on store shelves which usually have a cardboard back. You find them in drug stores, hardware stores, etc. Are these recyclable?

  • By Mike Porter 13 Oct 2018

    What about the stiff plastic bags that frozen salmon comes in?

  • By Nicole 28 Nov 2018

    We were wrapping both the container plastic and Other plastic waste in bio digradable bags but the recycle truck stopped taking them. We did this to avoid garbage blowing all over the street. Is this allowed?

Leave a Reply


%d bloggers like this: