5 Recycling Mistakes You Are Probably Making

Blue cart tips for improving your recycling habits.

We all try to do our best when it comes to recycling, but putting the wrong items in your blue cart can be a big problem. From contaminating the good recyclables to jamming equipment at the recycling facility, this can all lead to costly delays and safety issues. Check out this list of no-no’s that you may be recycling by mistake.


1. No SodaStream CO2 Canisters

Tanks and cylinders like Sodastream CO canisters need to be disposed of safely at a household hazardous waste drop-off.

Using your SodaStream reduces the number of pop cans and bottles to be recycled (and that’s a good thing!). But a friendly reminder that those empty CO2 canisters don’t belong in your recycling bin as they could get crushed in the truck or at the recycling facility putting staff and equipment at risk.

Tip: When you’re out of gas, the empty canister can be exchanged at participating retailers for a special “gas-only price”. If for some reason you aren’t taking your canister back to be refilled, safely dispose of it at a household hazardous waste drop-off at designated fire halls and Calgary landfills.


2. No Meal Delivery Service Packaging

Most meal delivery packaging belongs in the garbage. Reuse containers (left) and remove foil from the box before recycling.

Meal delivery services like HelloFresh and Chefs Plate are great for your fast and convenient meal planning. Sadly, most of the packaging is not recyclable. Spice packets, small plastic condiment containers, non-stretchy plastic bags, foil lined boxes… none of these materials can go in your blue bin. Items are often too small to be sorted properly by the recycling equipment and are often made of mixed materials (paper/plastic or metal/plastic) that cannot be easily separated for recycling.

Tip: Reuse condiment containers and take out all foil lining before recycling the food prep kit boxes.


3. No Coffee Pods

Empty out coffee grounds into the compost, but the rest of the pod belongs in the garbage.

Think you are doing the right thing by putting your empty coffee pod in the recycling? Think again — coffee pods are not acceptable in your recycling bin. The pods are too small to be sorted properly by the recycling equipment and are often made of multi-materials (metal and plastic) that cannot be separated for recycling.

Tip: You can empty the pod of the coffee grounds (put those in your compost bin) but the plastic/metal pod or disc needs to go in the garbage. Some companies like Nespresso now offer send back programs for used coffee pods.


4. No Non-Stretchy Bags or Pouches

Don’t try to recycle these pouches and non-stretchy bags – they all belong in the garbage.

Everything at the grocery store these days from beef jerky to frozen vegetables to laundry pods seems to come in a stand-up plastic pouch or non-stretchy bag. While these pouches, chip bags and granola wrappers may look recyclable, they are not. These prolific stand-up plastic pouches combine multiple layers of laminated plastics, plastic composites, organic barrier layers, coatings and aluminum foils that cannot be separated for recycling.

Tip: Where possible buy in bulk and use reusable bags or containers for your goods. Also, be a conscious shopper, if the same or similar product is available in packaging that is recyclable, choose that product instead.


5. No Foam Take-out Containers

All types of foam products including these foam takeout containers cannot be recycled.

Calgarians love their takeout food but that delicious to-go meal often comes in a foam take-out container. While technically foam is a type of plastic and often has the recycling symbol on the bottom, it’s one of those annoying exceptions that is not acceptable in Calgary’s recycling programs. If you put foam take-out containers in your blue cart the material gets crushed inside the recycling collection truck, breaking into small pieces that are then so light they cannot be sorted. These small pieces contaminate the good recyclables during the sorting process making it difficult to move to recycling markets.

Tip: You’d be surprised by how many restaurants are happy to serve your take out in your own reusable container. Next time you’re picking up your favorite pho bring your own clean and sealed container. If your favorite restaurants are still using foam products, speak to the manager or send an email to their corporate headquarters requesting that they make a change to a more sustainable product.


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