5 Things You Didn’t Know About Calgary’s Blue Cart Recycling Program

Go behind the scenes on City of Calgary recycling

Have you ever wondered how Calgary’s Blue Cart recycling works? Discover how Blue Cart collection sorts over 600 million kilograms of metal, plastic and paper and turns it into bicycles, clothing and tissues. And find some simple steps to put the right things in your bin the right way to keep the Blue Cart program running smoothly.

 

1. Calgary blue bins recycle a lot — 600 million kilograms, in fact

Calgarians recycle like it’s nobody’s business! The Blue Cart recycling program has diverted over 600 million kilograms of recyclable material from landfill in the last 10 years.  By recycling all those tin cans, plastic containers, newspapers and cardboard boxes, you’ve helped make a big difference in this city. Calgarians now recycle and compost more material at home than they send to landfill for disposal!

Did you know? 95% of Calgarians regularly use their blue bins for recycling.

2. Sorting the different types of recyclables

Did you know that robots sort your different types of recyclables? Your blue bin materials go to the Cascades Recovery+ sorting facility in S.E. Calgary. At the sorting facility, a mix of about 30% human sorters and 70% state-of-the-art technology help sort your recyclables into the proper categories.

Calgary recyclables are pushed onto a conveyor belt where workers will pull out things that don’t belong, like propane tanks, toasters and batteries.

They also sort some items by hand, like bundled plastic bags (that’s why bags need to be bundled together in a single plastic bag for recycling).

Different types of machines then further sort the recycling material. It can be as simple as a magnet that attracts tinfoil or an optical sorter that uses cameras to scan the different types of plastic containers — an optical sorter can make 2,000 picks in a single minute!

The sorting process puts the different types of recyclables into these main categories:

 

Category What is this?
Cardboard

 

 

Mixed paper

 

 

Newspaper

All those Amazon boxes you get. Break them down to fit more in your blue cart.

All your junk mail, old copies of Avenue magazine (after you’ve thoroughly read all the articles), envelopes and more.

 

For your daily editions of The Star Calgary, The Calgary Sun and Calgary Herald.

Plastic containers and plastic cups

 

 

 

Bagged stretchy bags and plastic film wrap

This includes plastic containers used for all kinds of things in your home, like laundry detergent, peanut butter, protein powder, yogurt and sour cream, milk and margarine.

 

 

Plastic bags like grocery bags, Ziploc bags, bread bags and cling wrap — but only if you’ve bundled them together into a single bag and double-knot closed.

Tin cans and tinfoil Food cans such as tomato paste, beans, tuna and your aluminum foil, too (just crumple it up into a ball for recycling).
Glass jars and bottles Baby food jars, jam jars, spice jars – you name it!

Did you know? You can watch a video on how the sorting process works here.

 

3. The recyclables you put in your Blue Cart actually get recycled!

The City of Calgary works closely with Cascades Recovery+ to make sure they are properly recycling the materials you put in your blue cart. Cascades is the company that does all the sorting and marketing of your recyclables. We want to make sure we know where recyclables are going and their intended use to ensure that your recyclables only end up in the hands of legitimate recyclers and product manufacturers.

Cascades has “boots-on-the-ground” wherever the sorted recyclables end up, both domestically and internationally. This means visiting pulp mills, paperboard factories and packaging manufacturers before sending sorted material their way.

They regularly perform site inspections, reference checks and even ask for various third-party certifications as part of their commitment to ensure sorted recyclables are handled in an ethical and environmentally sound way.

We’ve all seen pictures of plastic floating in the ocean or heaped into a giant garbage pile. None of that is okay with The City of Calgary or Cascades.

Did you know? You can see where your Calgary blue bin recyclables are destined and examples of what they are turned into at calgary.ca/bluecart.

 

4. What are Calgary recyclables turned into?

Recyclables are a commodity just like oil, gas, coal and wood. Much like trees are used to become a notebook you can write on, recyclables are used as raw materials. They are turned into new products we buy at grocery stores, at the mall, online shopping and at other retailers.

Here’s a look at what some of your recyclables can be turned into:

Did you know? The paper recycled with the Blue Cart program saves one million trees a year.

5. Prepare your recyclables and put the right materials in your blue bin

Recycling right is more important than ever. And it isn’t as hard as you think. Follow these simple tips to put the right materials in your Blue Cart in the right way for sorting:

  • Your blue bin is only for household cardboard, paper and containers.
  • Make sure all your recyclables are empty, clean and dry.
  • Bag your stretchy plastic bags and film together in one bag
  • Keep the rest of your recyclables loose

Did you know? When you put things in your Blue Cart that can’t be accepted you are causing contamination. Items we don’t accept are things like propane tanks, microwaves, furniture, extension cords, carpets and rugs, and CD and DVDs. Contaminated items can put our workers’ safety at risk, break the recycling facility equipment or hurt the quality of recyclables, making it difficult and expensive to sort.

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