Thursday, May 4, 2017

9 things you should never put in your blue cart

Your blue cart is important in keeping Calgary green and clean. But not everything can be recycled in The City of Calgary’s Blue Cart program. When the wrong things are put in the blue carts it can lower the quality of the acceptable recyclables, cause health and safety concerns for your waste collector and the workers at the recycling facility and can increase costs for the recycling program.

If you’re ever not sure of what to do with an item, be sure to use our online search too, What Goes Where, to find the answer. To get you started, here are 9 things that don’t belong in your blue cart:

1) No bagged recyclables

Your recyclables must be kept loose in your blue cart in order for the machines to properly sort them at the recycling facility.

The only exceptions are plastic bags and shredded paper that needs to be bagged separately. Check out our video to see how the recycling sorting process works.

TIP: When filling your blue cart, make sure the items can easily fall out and are not packed in too tightly.

2) No Christmas trees

We do not recycle Christmas trees in the blue cart, real or fake. Artificial Christmas trees can be donated to local thrift stores or put in the black cart as garbage. Real Christmas trees can be taken to a Christmas tree drop-off or put in your green cart (which is coming soon! Learn more at calgary.ca/greencarthttp://calgary.ca/greencart).

3) No tall/oversized recyclables 

Yes, cardboard is recyclable! But tall and long items like pieces of cardboard need to be broken down into smaller pieces before recycling. When the automated arm on the collection truck picks up the cart, it will not have enough clearance for the cardboard to reach the opening and be tipped into the truck properly. Break down your cardboard and then recycle it in your blue cart.

TIP: Make sure the lid of your cart is closed to help protect the recyclables from rain and snow.

4) No to Bear Spray and other household hazardous waste

Have you ever been hit by pepper spray or bear spray? Unfortunately, the workers at the Cascades Recovery recycling facility have – twice! Household hazardous waste is a major no-no in the blue cart. While the container may seem empty, there are still residual chemicals inside that can get released.

During two separate incidents, a bear spray canister was put in for recycling and made its way into the recycling facility.  The pressurized tank went off inside the facility releasing bear spray chemicals into the air. Employees were exposed to the chemicals and required medical treatment. Fire crews were dispatched and the entire facility was evacuated for safety precautions. Material could not be processed or sorted during the closure and recycling trucks were not able to drop off material. This photo shows the punctured bear spray canister after it was safely removed from the recycling facility.


Any item with a hazard symbol on it should be considered household hazardous waste. This includes bear spray, propane tanks, automotive chemicals and more. Bring to a household hazardous waste drop-off for safe disposal.


5) No cardboard/recyclables outside of the blue cart.

All your recyclables must be inside of your blue cart for pick-up. If your blue cart is full, take your extra recyclables to a Community Recycling Depot, or save them for collection the following week. Exposure to snow and rain can reduce the quality of the recyclables, and wind creates a problem with litter in the community.

If you’re thinking of bagging your extra recyclables if your cart is full, see problem item #1.
Tip: Break down your boxes where possible. It will give you more room to put more recycling in your blue cart.

6) No electronics 

Electronics are definitely recyclable – just not in your blue cart. The Electronics Recycling program takes computers, printers and other devices at locations all around Calgary.  Visit calgary.ca/whatgoeswhere to find the right place to recycle your smartphones, DVD players and more.
PS. No cassette tapes or dirty socks either. We’d be much obliged.

7) No construction materials or scrap metal

Whether the project is big or small, take home renovation and construction material to a City landfill for proper disposal and recycling. These items do not belong in the blue cart – they can damage the collection trucks as well as the equipment at the recycling facility.

8) No DVDs and household goods

Many useable household goods like DVDs, furniture, dishes, clothing, shoes and toys can be donated to charities, given to family and friends to reuse or given away on online bartering websites like Kijiji.
Someone will want that copy of Bridget Jones’s Diary, even if you’re done with it.

9) No to “wish-cycling”

Not sure if an item should be recycled, so you just put it in anyways? Please don’t.

There’s a little bit of everything going on in this blue cart. Foam, wood and wicker baskets are not recyclable in your blue cart. “Wishing” something is recyclable doesn’t make it so. When garbage is placed in the recycling it must be removed and then landfilled which increases costs as these items have to be “double-handled” rather than being put in the garbage in the first place.

When in doubt, make sure to check it out at calgary.ca/whatgoeswhere.

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