8 Recycling Tips From a Calgary Waste Diversion Specialist

If you’re looking to develop some greener habits, start with proper recycling. Chloe Stone from the City’s Waste and Recycling Services department shares some best practices when it comes to your blue cart.

Illustration by rawpixel.com on Freepik.

What does “wish-cycling” mean?

People put items in their blue carts that they’re unsure about, or that they hope or wish will get recycled. Common wish-cycling items we see are plastic straws and cutlery, coffee cup lids, chip or snack bags, clothing and electronics. The more unacceptable items there are results in more staff time to sort these unwanted items.


Are tinfoil and styrofoam recyclable?

Tinfoil is, you just have to rinse off any food residue and then crumple it into a ball before putting it in your blue cart. Styrofoam and other foam products are not accepted — they’re too light to be sorted properly.


Should items be cleaned before they go into the blue cart?

Yes. That’s a really important step, as food residue in containers is considered contamination, which affects the quality of sorted recyclables. If something isn’t cleanable, put it in your black cart.


So, where does that leave pizza boxes?

If it’s clean and has a little bit of grease, you can go ahead and put it in your blue cart. If it’s soiled with cheese and sauce all over it, put it in your green cart.


What about old light bulbs and batteries — can they go in blue carts?

Light bulbs and batteries definitely don’t belong in your blue cart. There are a lot of different kinds of light bulbs and batteries; the best thing to do is to check our website, calgary.ca/waste/what-goes-where. There’s a great tool where you can search for an item, and it will tell you what to do with it.


Should lids from plastic bottles be removed before recycling?

Yes, lids and caps do need to be separated from the container before going into your blue cart. As a rule of thumb, if a lid is about the size of the palm of your hand, it’s recyclable. If a cap is smaller than that, put it in your black cart. (If you are taking bottles to a bottle depot, caps can stay on.)


Are there any random no-go items that you often come across?

Garden hoses and other tanglers like extension cords and Christmas lights. Those cause a problem as they get tangled with other items creating this giant “hairball” that gets stuck in the equipment at the recycling facility and creates delays and backups.


In general, how important is recycling?

Recycling is more important than it’s ever been. We live on a planet with limited resources and a growing population that puts extra demand on those resources. So, by recycling, we conserve resources by putting them back into productive use and reduce the amount of waste we’re sending to the landfill.

This article appears in the March 2023 issue of Avenue Calgary.

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