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.
The 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
Ok, 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.
If 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!