What’s Recyclable?

   C h eck your local
municipa lity's website, 
or give the recyc ling
progra m staff a call and 
ask which materials
you can recycle 

With all the different types of plastic packaging in use today, it can be tricky to know exactly what you can actually recycle in your home and workplace. Luckily there’s no shortage of information that can point you in the right direction. But first…a bit of background on some of the lesser known facts about recycling plastics.

Why don’t all communities recycle the same plastics?

It comes down to resources and systems. Managing waste is a significant investment for any community, and each community sets priorities, while adhering to requirements that may be established at the provincial or local level.

Some communities can collect and recycle a many items because they have the trucks, the staff (or contractors), abilities to sort the different materials and end markets that want to reprocess the materials.

For others, at least one of these factors presents a challenge, and that’s where difficult choices have to be made.

For example, a community may have a market nearby that can accept all kinds of plastics without a great deal of sorting, so it might accept all plastic resins numbered 1 through 7. But other communities may find they can only recycle PET and HDPE because that’s what their system can manage. It might have to do with recycling truck capacity or the capabilities of their MRF.

CPIA’s role is to work with recyclers, municipalities and end markets to continue to strengthen each element of the system for the materials that we use today and to consider new plastics that may be coming on stream for the future.

What plastics can most people recycle now?

CPIA completes an annual “Access” study of about 400 recycling programs across Canada to find out exactly what plastics municipalities collect for recycling, and to learn about how best to support Canadian communities to recycle more.

In the most recent study, we characterized 24 types of plastics containers and non-containers and found 70% of Canadians have access to programs that accept most plastic packaging containers – HDPE, PET, LDPE, polystyrene and PVC. More than this, 95% can recycle PET bottles (like pop, water and juice) plus HDPE (detergents, milk jugs and other cleansers).

This is a huge achievement, but we’re not resting on our laurels.

Will we be able to recycle more soon?

Some plastic items can be recycled more than they are now. Plastic tubs and lids, polystyrene foam and food packaging including coffee cups, plastic film (including bags) and plastic caps that go on the containers show lots of potential for growth. CPIA is working with communities to help make this happen.

Following that, there’s the newer generation of packaging including laminated wrap (for meat and fresh produce), bags and pouches (like potato chip bags and drink pouches) and other items – like straws, coffee stir sticks and lids.

Some recycling solutions available now and others may be coming on-stream soon. 

The key to introducing successful options is to manage costs (to transport materials to market), ensure long term, stable markets (to be sure it’s worthwhile to invest in collecting these items) and solve technical issues to separating multi-laminate materials so they can be recycled just like any other plastic.

CPIA works with industry to simplify materials to facilitate recycling, with government agencies to offer support for recycling, with end markets to ensure that there are valuable uses for recycled materials and with municipalities and residents to make help ensure that people understand what can be recycled and why.

Fast Facts

  1. Producing new products and packaging from recycled plastic resin can take about 60% less energy than creating products and packaging from all new resins. It really adds up!
  2. You can support your recycling program by only recycling the items that it accepts and nothing more. Please don’t add items that aren’t included.
  3. It's important to find out what you can recycle and check back because this can change. Check your community’s waste management webpage or give them a call. Some communities also use waste management apps that offer this info at the touch of a button for mobile users (like my-waste®, PingStreet, Recollect, Recyclepedia (BC) and more).