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Holiday recycling in Calgary: Here’s what you need to know

The colour of Calgary’s recycling pile has turned a bit browner since the start of the pandemic, said Calgary’s recycling program manager.

But with holiday recycling, it might brighten up for a bit.  

Sharon Howland, lead, program management with Calgary’s waste and recycling services, said that since the beginning of COVID-19, there has been a significant uptick in materials recycled all across the system.

“When you look at the recycling itself, if you go to the recycling facility, you do see a lot more of that shipping material, so it’s a lot of corrugated cardboard boxes,” Howland said, in a year-end interview with LiveWire Calgary.

“Which is, from a recycling perspective, it’s very easy to recycle and easy to turn into a new material. So that’s great.”

There’s been a big increase in shipping, due to online purchases either through portals like Amazon or local shops doing delivery or curbside service.

What’s changed, Howland said, is the amount of cushion material that they’re seeing. That’s like the air pillows or the bubble wrap.  It can be recycled, as long as it’s prepared properly – in plastic bags with other bags.

“It’s been very interesting to see kind of the color of the pile of recycling facility change to more of a brown,” Howland said.

Recycling over the holidays

You know that standard stuff like boxes, but what about the wrapping paper? 

Wrapping paper can typically go in your blue bin, but not if it’s the plastic foil type. Howland said a good test is to try and tear it. If it rips like regular paper, it’s good to go. If you try to rip it and it stretches or crinkles, it can’t be recycled.

“That’s just garbage,” she said.

The type of packaging they’re seeing more often is cardboard mixed with molded plastic. It’s often found with children’s toys when the plastic provides a window for the cardboard packaging.  You can find it in advent calendars as well, Howland said.

“We just ask that Calgarians separate the two of things,” she said.

“They’re both acceptable for recycling, but the machinery can’t separate them from each other.”

And while gift bags and the tissue are generally recyclable (minus the handles), Howland encouraged Calgarians to reuse those bags annually.

Howland also underscored the use of the green bin over the holidays. Howland said it’s there for your food scraps, paper plates, napkins, even muffin papers.

If you deep fry your turkey or cook up bacon for a holiday breakfast, the grease and fat can be composted as well.

Howland also said that bin pickups shouldn’t be affected this Christmas season because the statutory holidays fall on the weekend. But you can only fill your recycling bin. Don’t put recycling outside of it, Howland said.

What’s new for 2022

One of the big things they expect to see in recycling in 2022 is the implementation of a single-use plastics ban, Howland said.

Shortly after our conversation, the federal government rolled out its draft regulations for the 2022 ban.

Howland also expects Calgarians will be hearing more about the reduction side of things.  Producing less waste will go a long way to reducing our climate impact, she said.

“I think making that connection is something that we’re going to hear more and more about in 2022,” Howland said.

Things like reusable containers will be more commonplace, or for gifts, use the gift bags.

“We’re even hearing more and more about is people giving memories, not garbage for Christmas,” Howland said.

“Giving the gift of experience; giving people their time instead of a physical good.”