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all the ways to recycle your stuff

photo by VanVeen JF

Author: Kate Lam

Do you find yourself feeling smug at how teeny your trash bag is compared to your recycling bag come garbage day? Recycling is actually not the best for our waste cycle and there are many ways we can do better. bare market blogger Kate sheds some light on what waste should go where and how we can all lower our impact and focus on reducing our reliance on the recycling system. 

There is a reason why recycling comes last in the whole “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle” mantra. Recycling is great, but it should be the last thing you do after trying to reduce your consumption and reusing the thing you’re thinking of throwing out. I used to think that recycling meant I was doing a good deed but it turns out that a whopping 91% of recycled plastic is discarded as trash How crazy is that?

Now that’s not to say we give up on recycling all together. Despite the depressing statistics, every little bit helps. I live in a household that still produces waste but I try to find every resource available in my community to recycle the things that are at the end of their lifespan. 


blue bins:

In the Greater Toronto Area, Blue Bins have been the staple for us to recycle our plastics, glass and other items. Each municipality has a great tool to let you know exactly what to place in your bins.It is important to remember that each municipality has its own specific rules about what goes where so make sure you check it out before you toss anything into the bins! For example, white styrofoam is accepted in Blue Bins the City of Toronto, but not in the City of Markham (these need to be taken to a Recycling Depot).

Need help figuring out what goes where? Check out these resources for the City of Markham, the City of Vaughan, Georgina and the one for the City of Toronto. Don’t have a local resource? Try the Region of York Bindicator!  

One of the most important things to remember when it comes to recycling is to CLEAN the items you are going to recycle. If you miss this step and throw in a container with some extra hummus lurking inside you risk contaminating perfectly recyclable items and the whole load could end up heading to landfill. 

FUN (or more like depressing?) FACT: Did you know black plastic is NOT recyclable? Takeout containers, mushroom containers, black plastic cutlery, etc. Avoid these like the plague! 

Also, take-out coffee cups are NOT recyclable! Most coffee shops such as Second Cup and Starbucks do allow for the use of reusable cups, but some places like McDonald's do not.  


green bins:

The handy dandy bin for all your stinky, compostable organic food waste. Scraps, vegetable odds and ends, coffee grounds, basically anything that you eat and that may be wet.

FUN FACT: Did you know you can place shredded paper in your Green Bin? Diapers and menstrual pads can also go in the green bin - although they still end up in landfill (more on that in a later blog)!

photo by Alfonso Navarro

recycling depots:

These are great for items not picked up curbside, like batteries, styrofoam, ink cartridges, light bulbs, and plastic bags or larger electronic items. I hoard my styrofoam and plastic bags in the garage until I collect enough to bring to the recycling depots every few months. The people that work there are always willing to help you sort your items. 

FUN FACT: Unfortunately, not all plastic bags are recyclable. I was told that if you can poke your finger through the plastic, the recycling depot can take it and recycle it for you!

If in doubt, save it and bring it to the recycling depot. They will be able to tell you if they can recycle it.


textile recycling bins:

There are textile recycling bins all across the City of Markham. Not only do they take used clothes but also ANY linens like drapes, tablecloths or even shoes! Just make sure they are dry and clean. 

Click here for more information from the  City of Markham. Many York Region municipalities and townships have partnered with Diabetes Canada to provide textile recycling programs. Find out where your local drop offs are for King, Richmond Hill, Aurora, Newmarket, and Whitchurch-Stouffville  

repair cafes:

In the York Region, there is a Repair Cafe held every month in different municipalities of York Region that can repair your broken household items for free! 

Check out more information about the Repair Cafes hereDon’t worry, Toronto’s got your back too - find Repair Cafe’s here


donate or sell:

Finally, there are plenty of places that take used items: Canadian Diabetes Association, Salvation Army, Value Village. Alternatively, you can make a few bucks using reselling platforms such as Kijiji, Depop, Bunz, Carousell... the list goes on!

For larger household items, Habitat REStore is a great place to check out. We’ve donated our bathroom vanities, light fixtures and faucets in the past and they will do pick-ups if there is a large number of items they are interested in.


Are there any other resources in your community that helps you recycle your stuff? Let us know in the comments below!

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