Why isn't all plastic recycled in Toronto?

Why can't some types of plastic be recycled in the Blue Bin? And doesn't the recycling logo on the bottom mean we can recycle it in Toronto?

There are many types of plastics that just can't be recycled in Toronto: CDs and DVDs, black plastic containers, toys and more. Putting the wrong thing in the Blue Bin contaminates other plastics, costs money to separate and can even jam up equipment and cause workplace injuries!

So why can't we recycle all types of plastics?

The recycling symbol (or mobius loop) on the bottom of plastic products is an international symbol to indicate the main resin used to make that product. But it doesn't mean they are recyclable in Toronto. That's decided by the Province and the City.

While two items may have the same code # on the bottom, they can't always be recycled together because of other resins or chemicals that are added, or how they were created. Read more about plastic codes on the City website - click 'Recycling Plastics'.

The Province of Ontario sets basic rules around waste and recycling, and each City must collect residential waste and recycle a set of materials. The Province also sets out the rules for companies to pay for the recycling of the packaging they sell (see Extended Producer Responsiblity)

Toronto is a big city, so to keep landfill costs down, and to protect the environment, Toronto continually adds more material to the recycling bin to reduce our garbage.

What Toronto can recycle is determined by a few things. Toronto collects waste and sells it to private companies who recycle it into a raw material.
For this to work, the City must be able to:

  • collect enough of each type of material and ensure that it is clean and uncontaminated
  • find a company that wants to buy that material. This means having the right recycling technology nearby.

For example, in fall 2012, Toronto began collecting clear plastic clamshell containers after doing research into the amount of them in the garbage, and finding new markets to help recycle them. However, after years of study, Toronto still hasn't found a way to recycle take-out coffee cups.

It gets even more complicated when it comes to disposing of plastics at the office, shopping mall and in some apartment buildings.

TEA's Waste Free Challenge 3 - Use Toronto's Trash Tools will help you find out which plastics are recyclable and which aren't. Challenge 8 - Send Packaging Packing challenges you to reduce packaging and take action.