Ask the Waste Wizard to find out where and how to properly dispose of an item.

The Benefits of Recycling

The Importance of Recycling Right

Bad things happen when the wrong items are placed in the Blue Bin. How Bad? Bad enough that it can damage equipment, cause workplace injuries at the recycling facility and ruin otherwise perfectly good recyclables. Contaminated recycling is currently costing the City millions annually. Approximately 30 per cent of what is put in the Blue Bin doesn’t belong there. To remind people to recycle right and make the right call, the City has teamed up with Jack “The Coach” Armstrong.

  • Remove food, liquids or other contents and rinse clean before recycling.
  • Put items in loose and not bagged. Use clear plastic bag only if necessary.
  • Put shredded paper in a clear plastic bag.
  • Separate plastic bags/over-wrap from newspapers, flyers, magazines, water/soft drink cases. Recycle separately.
  • Not all items with a recycling symbol Mobius loop with three arrows making up a triangle shape are accepted in Toronto’s Blue Bin recycling program.
  • If unsure about whether or not an item can be recycled, check Waste Wizard.

Five Items That Always Go in Recycling



  • Bottles, jars (lids on)
    Glass and Plastic containers


  • Tubs, lids
  • Clear food containers/clamshells
  • Disposable plates, cups, berry containers (black items are garbage)
  • Detergent, hand soap, shampoo bottles (lids, sprayers, pumps – on tight)
  • Beverage bottles (lids on)
  • Cat litter tubs with plastic handles
  • Plastic paint pails (empty; remove metal handles, handles are garbage)
  • Clear compact disk cases (empty; black cases are garbage)

Note: black plastic items cannot be recycled (put in garbage).

Assorted plastics and plastic wrapping

Soft, stretchy plastics

  • Milk bags (inner and outer)
  • Bread bags (non-foil)
  • Zipper lock bags (e.g. for sandwiches, freezer)
  • Bulk food/produce bags
  • Frozen fruit/vegetable bags (no stand-up pouches)
  • Grocery/retail shopping bags
  • Dry cleaning bags
  • Newspaper/flyer, magazine bags (separate item from bag; recycle separately)
  • Garden soil/manure/compost/road salt bags
  • Diaper/feminine hygiene outer bags
  • Over-wrap from toilet paper, napkins, paper towels, water/soft drink cases

Note: remove product before recycling.


  • Aluminum/steel cans
    (place lid in can and pinch closed)
  • Aluminum trays, burner liners, pie plates, roasting pans
  • Cookie tins
  • Aerosol cans (empty; put plastic caps in the garbage)
  • Paint cans (empty; remove lids and recycle separately)


  • Bags
  • Advertising mail, fine paper, envelopes (including window)
  • Newspapers, flyers, directories, magazines, catalogues (remove over-wrap, recycle separately)
  • Gift wrap, tissue paper, cards (no ribbons, bows, foil wrap)
  • Shredded paper (put in clear plastic bag, tie closed)
  • Soft/hard cover books


  • Boxboard (e.g. cereal, tissue, detergent, shoe; remove liners, flatten, no freezer boxes)
  • Corrugated cardboard (clean, unwaxed, flattened; pizza boxes must be empty; remove over-wrap from water/soft drink cases, recycle separately)
  • Rolls (toilet, paper towel, wrapping paper)
  • Milk/juice cartons and boxes (straws are garbage)
  • Cans (e.g. chips, nuts, frozen juice – place metal end in can and pinch closed; pull-off strips are garbage)

foam polystyrene containers and packages

 Foam polystyrene

  • Foam food and protective packaging
    (e.g. drinking cups, egg cartons, meat trays, takeout food containers, electronic packaging).

Note: black foam items cannot be recycled (put in garbage).


Items that do not go into the Blue Bin

Medical waste

  • Needles are hazardous waste and must not be put in garbage. Take to a Drop-off Depot.
  • Plastic catheter/colostomy bags and tubes are garbage


  • Caulking tubes
  • Motor oil jugs
  • Paint cans
  • Packing peanuts
  • Binders
  • Toys
  • Black plastic takeout containers, black garbage bags, black plant trays and flower pots (other colours accepted)
  • Cassettes, CDs, DVDs

Plastic packaging

  • Black plastic
  • Household cling wrap
  • Biodegradable containers/film (e.g. compostable plastic bags)
  • Laminated plastic film (e.g. chip bags, stand-up resealable pouch bags)
  • Pre-packaged items (e.g. meat, cheese)
  • Bubble wrap
  • Plastic squeeze tubes for home and personal products (hair, body etc.)
  • Single-serve coffee and tea pods


  • Drinking glasses, dishes, cups, crystal
  • Ceramics, pottery
  • Window glass
  • Light bulbs
  • Mirrors
  • Pots, pans


  • Propane/helium cylinders and tanks
  • Tools, scrap metal, auto parts
  • Coat hangers
  • Pots, pans, small appliances
  • Electronics
  • Binders


  • Clothes, shoes
  • Carpets, curtains
  • Bedding


  • Foil food wrap, potato chip bags
  • Metallic gift wrap and bows

Paper products

  • Waxed cardboard and paper
  • Ribbons
  • Soiled tissues and napkins (these go in the Green Bin)


  • Crates for fruit
  • Renovation waste is garbage and must be taken to a Drop-off Depot.

Other items

  • Cables, hoses, ropes

Household Hazardous Waste

  • Proper disposal of household hazardous waste items such as propane/helium tanks, batteries, compact fluorescent light bulbs, pesticides, oil, etc. means taking these items to a Drop-off Depot.
  • These types of items must never be put in recycling or garbage.
  • The Toxic Taxi provides free pick-up of 10 to 50 litres/kilograms of household hazardous waste from Toronto residents. Book an appointment online or by calling 311.

Note: Some of these items can be recycled at Drop-off Depots or Community Environment Days.

Why We Can’t Take Certain Items in the Blue Bin

Food and organic waste

Food scraps like apple cores, eggshells or expired leftovers belong in your Green Bin. When you mistakenly toss food scraps in your Blue Bin, food residue and particles get soaked up by paper and can ruin large batches of otherwise good recyclables.

Containers with leftover food

Please empty and rinse food containers before tossing them in your Blue Bin. When you don’t, the residue from items like jars and take-out containers get soaked up by paper and can ruin large batches of otherwise good recyclables. Put any food scraps in your Green Bin.

Clothing and textiles

Old clothes, shoes, blankets, and curtains don’t belong in the Blue Bin. They can get caught in sorting machines, damage equipment and cause workplace injuries at the recycling facility. Instead, donate items that are in good condition to not-for-profit agencies or drop them off for reuse at Community Environment Days. If your items can’t be donated, put them in the garbage.

Hot beverage cups

Most disposable hot beverage cups are made of paper, but lined with plastic, which makes them difficult to sort mechanically at the recycling facility. Conventional paper mills do not want coffee cups because of their low-quality paper and inner liner, which does not pulp easily and causes clogging in the pulping process. The dyes in the paper can also affect the quality of the end paper product and make it difficult for paper mills to turn cups into other paper-based products. As a result, the City has not been able to find a stable market (i.e. buyers) for coffee cups. Please place coffee cups in the garbage. Non-black plastic lids and paper sleeves should be removed and placed in the Blue Bin.

Black plastic

Black plastic of any kind, such as take-out containers and black garbage bags aren’t accepted in the City’s recycling program. There are two main reasons for this:

  • there is no stable market for the volume of black plastic generated in Toronto
  • black plastic cannot be sorted mechanically at the recycling facility because the optical sorting technology cannot recognize it.

Please dispose of all black plastic in the garbage.

VHS tapes, chains, hoses and electrical cords

These do not go in your Blue Bin. They can get tangled in sorting machines, damage equipment and cause workplace injuries at the recycling facility. Donate unwanted VHS tapes or see if your local electronics store’s has a recycling program. Throw unwanted cords, hoses and cables in your garbage.


The City does not accept coffee pods in its Blue Bin recycling program. All coffee pods, including those that are labelled or marketed as recyclable, must be disposed of in the garbage or returned to retailers/manufacturers who have take-back programs.

The City commissioned research related to disposal of single-serve coffee and tea pods. The findings include feedback from Toronto residents about use, attitudes and disposal behaviours

The City does not accept the following items marketed or labelled as compostable or biodegradable in its Blue Bin recycling program:

  • containers/packaging
  • coffee pods
  • coffee cups
  • bags
  • cutlery.

These items, which may be made of or lined with a bio-based plastic, must be disposed of in the garbage. Alternatively, products can be returned to retailers/manufacturers who have take-back programs.

Why the City doesn’t accept these items in the Blue Bin

Compostable and biodegradable plastics are not recyclable, as they are made of materials that are meant to break down versus materials that can be made into something new. Once recyclables are collected and sorted, they are baled and sold to partially offset the cost of collecting and separating recycling. At the recycling facility, compostable and biodegradable plastics get mixed with conventional plastics. When this happens, it lowers the quality of the plastic bales making them less valuable and more difficult to sell.

Recycling is collected from the curb or a building and brought to one of the City’s Transfer Stations. From there, it is loaded onto tractor-trailers and brought to a Material Recovery Facility in Toronto owned by Green For Life Environmental Inc., which the City contracts to process its recycling.

Once at the Material Recovery Facility, the recycling is manually and mechanically sorted – using a series of belts and conveyors, screens, magnets, optical sorting and AI systems – into the different types of materials, such as plastics, paper, aluminum and glass. The different types of materials are then baled and sold to re-processors/markets to be made into something new.

The money that the City gets from the sale of recyclables is only enough to partially offset the cost to run the recycling program.

Changes to global recycling markets over the last couple of years have resulted in an oversupply of recycling material, with fewer markets where it can be sold. While the City was affected by this, it is still able to find markets to take Toronto’s recycling and make it into something new, it is just receiving less revenue for it.

The recycling system in Toronto is still strong. It reduces the amount of waste going to landfill and helps to conserve natural resources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It’s still worth it to recycle and increasingly important to recycle right.