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Blue box confusion: Here’s a list of what should go out for recycling

Published on

Cathy Dobson

Knowing what to put in your blue box and what to leave out can help recyclers and reduce the amount of household waste sent to landfill.

So says Luiza Adsett, municipal affairs and communications officer at Waste Management (WM), which is contracted to process recyclables from Point Edward and Sarnia.

Some confusion has arisen following the release of a Sarnia Environmental Advisory Committee report that questioned the value of putting glass and plastic bags in our blue boxes.

Adsett said that first and foremost she wants the community to know that clean glass does still get recycled, despite its low commodity prices.

The market may be small and unstable but glass from Sarnia and Point Edward doesn’t get landfilled or stockpiled, she said.

Much of it goes to a company called NexCycle in Guelph where it is processed into a raw material called cullet, then sold back to the glass industry for containers and insulation.

As for plastic bags, both municipalities say they still want resident to placed empty plastic bags and plastic film in the blue box.

“As long as the plastic bag or film is clean it will be processed. However, if it becomes soiled it may get sorted out at the plant and sent to landfill,” says Sarnia’s chief engineer Andre Morin.

“Under the current recycling contract, Sarnia does allow residents to place their recyclables at the curb in clear plastic bags,” added Morin. “Staff feel that this has increased the amount of material being diverted from the landfill and sent for recycling.”

But keep in mind, if you use clear plastic bags rather than blue boxes, they will get dirty, making them unfit for recycling.

Adsett urges residents to bundle plastic bags together to keep them clean and prevent them from getting entangled in machinery during processing, a problem that was noted by the Environmental Advisory Committee.

Finally, small single-serve containers like those used for yoghurt can go in the blue box as long as they are clean and not stacked or hidden inside other containers.

“If the containers are too small, some might not land in the right bale,” Adsett conceded. “But we have about a 95% capture rate for single-serve containers.”

The recyclables currently bringing in the highest return – and a nice rebate cheque to Sarnia and Point Edward – are newspapers, plastic water bottles and aluminum and steel cans.

It’s important to remember that all recyclables must be clean. If containers or pizza boxes are dirty or have food residue, they go straight to the landfill.






Household and office paper



Boxboard like cereal boxes

Corrugated cardboard

Paper tubes

Clean pizza boxes with no food or grease

Books (hard covers removed)


Small plastic containers coded 1 – 7 (under one litre)

Plastic ‘clamshell’ containers

Plastic bags

Empty, dry metal paint cans

Glass bottles


Blister packaging

Flower pots

Tetra Pak boxes

Milk and juice cartons

Aluminum plates and trays




Motor oil bottles

Aerosol cans

Broken glass


Plastic paint cans

Glass dishes


Hazardous waste


Medical equipment

Auto parts


Building materials


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