Ottawa changing to new provincial recycling program
A regulation from the Province of Ontario is bringing changes to the way municipalities provide recycling programs. It creates a common program across the province and makes producers of products and packaging responsible for recycling the materials they supply. This new approach is called Individual Producer Responsibility (IPR) or Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).
By making the producer responsible, the new program supports a circular economy, reducing operational and financial responsibilities for municipalities.
The City of Ottawa is one of the first municipalities in Ontario to transition its residential blue and black bin recycling program to Individual Producer Responsibility. The transition started on July 1, 2023.
Circular Materials, the administrator of Ontario’s common collection system, explains more on their website: www.circularmaterials.ca.
That means contributing financially to, and in some cases, operating the recycling system.
EPR starts with environmental legislation, obligating producers to take responsibility for their materials straight through to end of life. Recovery and recycling targets are set and reporting requirements are defined.
This helps shift material from the waste stream into the recycling system.
To fulfill these legal obligations, many producers join a Producer Responsibility Organization, or P-R-O, who administer an EPR program on their behalf.
Producers pay fees to a P-R-O and the P-R-O uses the fee revenue to support the collection, sorting and recycling of material.
In some EPR models, a single jurisdiction is managed as a whole – with a consistent material list and an integrated material management supply chain. This creates greater scale and efficiency.
Residents are informed what is accepted and how to recycle it through promotion and education.
Material is then collected from residents’ homes or depots in partnership with local governments or private waste management companies.
Material is then brought to a material recovery facility, to be weighed…sorted… and baled by specific material type, such as the kind of paper or plastic resin.
Because of the potential scale of the system, EPR can facilitate investment in infrastructure and advanced sorting technologies, resulting in better quality materials and more of the material ultimately being recycled.
The goal is to create a circular economy for material by selling it to verified end markets to be made into new products.
Throughout this process, the amount and type of material is tracked, weighed and recorded so performance requirements are fulfilled and results can be verified and improved.
In the end, the P-R-O ensures that producers meet their regulatory obligations, and verify their performance targets.
The material enters back into the market, contributing to a circular economy.
As of July 1, 2023, hard and soft cover books are no longer accepted in the black bin. However, books are easy to reuse. Please consider giving them to family, friends, local schools or a Buy Nothing group near you (you can find them on Facebook). There are also many organizations that accept book donations which you can find on our Waste Explorer.
Ottawa’s recycling will be fully transitioned to the new system in 2026, when producers will implement a standardized collection program across the province. This means that residents across Ontario will be able to recycle the same materials no matter where they live.
Producers have not yet provided the full details of what this common collection system will look like, but it will have to meet the Blue Box Regulation requirements.
We will provide more details of the new program as we know them.
Expected benefits of the new system
Transitioning to the Individual Producer Responsibility system may:
- Increase waste diversion from the City’s landfill due to more accepted recyclable products, such as film plastics
- Reduce municipalities’ role in the collection and processing of recyclable materials
- Encourage producers to reduce and/or innovate their packaging to decrease the cost of collecting and processing them
- Standardize the recycling service across Ontario
Keep people and animals safe
Keep people safe from your waste
Litter (including used masks and gloves)
Residents should dispose of all garbage, including gloves and masks, in waste bins. If you take your used gloves and masks home, throw them away in a garbage bin lined with a plastic bag, and be sure to wash your hands after.
Used paper facial tissues should be placed in plastic bags and can go in the green bin.
Broken glass should be placed in a cardboard box. Close and seal the box then write “broken glass” on it and set it out separately on your next garbage collection day.
Other sharp items that may pose a risk to individuals handling your waste should be wrapped in used paper towel or bubble wrap.
Items such as medical needles, syringes and lancets don’t belong in the garbage or recycling bins. Go to ottawa.ca/wasteexplorer to learn how to dispose of these.
At-home rapid antigen screening
- For residents in the City of Ottawa, rapid COVID test kits from at-home testing must be placed in a plastic bag and then placed in your regular household garbage. This will help ensure the safety of waste collection operators.
Keep animals safe from your waste
Empty food containers can be dangerous to wildlife and pets. Animals may injure or trap themselves trying to get food scraps out of discarded jars, cans and other containers.
These simple steps can help keep animals safe:
Put all trash where it belongs – don’t litter!
Keep your trash inside until collection day.
Rinse out food waste to make empty containers less attractive.
Put lids back on plastic or glass jars before placing them into your blue bin.
Remove lids entirely from cans (don’t bend them inside the can!) and crush the open end of the can shut, to prevent animals from sticking their paws or heads inside.
Cut plastic six-pack holders and other similar items apart before putting them in the garbage.
What goes in your blue bin
Important blue bin reminders:
- All recyclables must be placed loose in an approved City of Ottawa blue bin to help with sorting at the recycling facility.
- Plastic bags should not be used to package recyclables. They cannot be opened by the automated sorting process at the recycling facility and the plastic bags get caught in the equipment.
- Clear/blue/biodegradable plastic bags are not accepted. Clean plastic grocery bags should be reused or brought to a Take it Back! partners.
- Your blue bin should not weigh more than 15 kg when full.
- Not sure how to dispose of a specific item? Check the Waste Explorer.
What goes in your blue bin
Blue bin recyclable:
- Empty bottles and jars
- Metal cans
- Soft drink cans
- Jar lids
- Aluminum containers (clean or food soiled)
- Aluminum foil (clean or food soiled)
- Empty paint cans with lids removed
- Empty aerosol cans (hairspray, paint, whipping cream)
- Spiral-wound canisters with metal ends (frozen concentrate cans, potato chip tube)
- Food and household containers numbers 1 to 7
Please note : Rigid #6 plastics such as yogurt cups and clear plastics are accepted, while expanded #6 such as Styrofoam are not accepted.
- Take-out containers, bakery and produce containers (clam shells)
- Pails (remove metal handle)
- Planting trays
- Flower pots
- Single serve yogurt cups
- Clear plastic egg cartons
- Plastic bottles, jars and jugs
- Tubs and tub lids (yogurt, ice cream, margarine containers)
- Milk and juice cartons
- Drink boxes
- Soup boxes
- Frozen meal trays and take-out containers
Empty Alcohol Containers
Empty wine, beer and spirit containers greater than 100 ml purchased in Ontario must be returned, for refund at The Beer Store.
Place these items in your regular garbage.
- Ceramics such as dishes, cups and pottery
- Other glass such as drinking glasses, window glass, light bulbs, and mirrors
- CFL bulbs (compact fluorescent) can be returned to a Take it Back! partner or a Household Hazardous Waste Depot
- Metal clothes hangers
- Scrap metal
- Chip bags
- #6 expanded polystyrene (such as styrofoam containers and packaging, meat trays and foam clam shells)
- All plastic bags
- Hard plastics such as dishes, cups, toys, make-up jars, laundry baskets
- Motor oil containers
Find out what happens to your recycling.
What goes in your black bin
Important black bin reminders
- Paper and cardboard must be clean.
- Your black bin should not weigh more than 15 kg when full.
- Flatten the boxes and place them into one larger box.
- Have a specific question about an item? Check the Waste Explorer.
What can I put in my black bin?
- Newspaper and flyers
- Magazines and catalogues
- Corrugated cardboard
- Telephone books
- Cereal and cracker boxes (remove plastic liners)
- Shoe and laundry detergent boxes
- Writing and computer paper, paper pads
- Paper egg cartons, toilet paper rolls and paper towel rolls
- Gift wrapping paper and greeting cards
- Clean paper shopping bags or paper packaging
- Frozen dinner boxes
- Clean pizza boxes
Place these items in your green bin:
- Waxed paper
- Food soiled pizza boxes
- Other soiled paper products
- Tissues and paper towels (soiled or clean)
- Coffee cups (wax lined)
Place these items in your garbage:
- Cereal and cracker box liners, chip and cookie bags and canisters
- Chocolate bar and candy wrappings
- Wooden clementine and orange crates
- Foil wrapping paper, bows, ribbons
- Paper and cardboard lined with foil
Find out what happens to your recycling.
How recycling works
Recycling makes a difference
Thank you, Ottawa! In 2022, you kept more than 21 763 tonnes of glass, metal and plastic out of the landfill, as well as 35 298 tonnes of paper and cardboard.
The materials got sorted and turned into valuable resources at two local processing plants. Plastics were mainly sold in Ontario, Quebec and the U.S. Aluminum and tin cans went to the US. Paper and cardboard were sold in India, Pakistan, Quebec and the U.S.
The sales earned the City more than $13,295,000. That money was used to offset most of the cost of the recycling program.
What happens to our recyclables?
Many everyday items can be recycled into something new. Here are some examples:
Plastic: Lumber for decks or park benches, lawn chairs, pipes, clothing
Metal: Chains, automotive parts
Glass: Reused for road and pad construction
Cartons: Paper towels
Cardboard, boxboard, paper: More cardboard, boxboard and paper
What happens to my recycling?
Visual: Animated icons of recyclable material appear.
Let’s hear the real story behind how glass, metal, plastic, paper and cardboard is processed right here in Ottawa. The more you know about recycling and how it works, the better you can sort the items.
Visual: Split screen – a full blue bin and a full black bin are being placed at the curb.
Blue and black bins are collected on alternating weeks.
Visual: Truck stops, waste collection operator picks up bins, puts contents into vehicle.
On average, each recycling truck makes 1,100 stops a day.
Visual: Collection vehicle drives onto scale.
Trucks are weighed when entering the recycling facility, loads are then tipped into a holding area.
Visual: Split screen – truck on the left tipping glass, metal and plastic, truck on the right tipping paper and cardboard. Front-end loader pushes materials towards conveyor belt. Blue and black bin icons appear.
86 trucks unload glass, metal, plastic, paper and cardboard daily. More than 93 tonnes of blue bin material and 142 tonnes of black bin material is processed every day.
Visual: Blue bin icon re-appears. Conveyor belt moves glass, metal, plastic upwards.
At the blue bin processing facility, material flows up the conveyor belt. The metering drum controls the flow of material.
Visual: Conveyor belt now moves horizontally. Staff sifting through material.
As we go through the process you will see machines using movement, weight, electricity, magnets, air, and infrared to sort.
Visual: Hands with gloves pulling out items, throwing them into nearby opening.
On the pre-sort line, workers open bags and remove garbage …
Visual: Conveyor belt moving up again, material falling from top edge into machine with quickly shifting iron panels.
…, bulky plastic, and scrap metal. The ballistic separator removes 2 dimensional items…
Visual: Plastic bags and film plastics falling into bunker, forming a large pile.
… like film plastic from the system. Unacceptable items like plastic bags end up at the landfill site.
Visual: Conveyor belt moving material upwards.
The recyclables then travel up to the drum magnet.
Visual: Animated graphic to show how magnetic sorting works.
This spinning magnet captures tin cans and other metals and drops them onto a conveyor belt.
Visual: Conveyor belt moving materials.
All materials other than metal and glass flow down the conveyor belt, towards 2 optical sorters.
Visual: View through window into machine; bright light shows plastics flying off conveyor belt in different directions.
Infra red sensors identify the different types of plastic. Plastics are blown by air jets into the appropriate chutes.
Visual: Animated icons appear – a plastic water bottle, a laundry detergent bottle, a gable top milk carton, a spray bottle and two types of squeeze bottles.
These sorters are used to separate the following containers: #1 plastics, #2 plastics, cartons, and #3-5 plastics.
Visual: Staff removing garbage from conveyor belt.
Workers at quality control stations remove any leftover non-recyclable items.
Visual: Hands with gloves sorting what is left into chutes.
The remaining materials continue on for manual sorting.
Visual: Aluminum products flying from one conveyor belt onto another. Staff going through aluminum products on conveyor belt.
The eddy current separator puts an electrical charge into aluminum cans, and a magnet propels the cans onto a separate belt.
Visual: Conveyor belt moving mixed material towards bright light. Items fall onto pile in tipping area where process began.
Finally, another optical sorter captures materials that were missed by the process and sends them back for another round of sorting.
Visual: Objects sorted out during process – things like a tire, a hose, cables, a lunch box and a tennis racket.
Contamination is material not acceptable in the blue or black bin program. These items are sent to the landfill.
Visual: Large cubes of compressed plastic material coming out of machine that ties them up with wire.
A baler crushes various materials into cubes for easy shipping.
Visual: Large cubes of aluminum, stacked.
Bales of steel such as tin cans…
Visual: Bale of cartons.
and gable, such as milk cartons
Visual: Worker pulling out materials from bale of drink cans.
Bales are inspected for quality before they are shipped.
Visual: Worker loading plastic bale onto truck with forklift. Black bin icon appears. Front-end loader moving paper and cardboard.
Let’s go over how we separate the paper and cardboard from your black bin. Once again, material is loaded onto a conveyor belt, and a metering drum controls the amount of material entering the facility.
Visual: Paper and cardboard items falling off a conveyor belt onto separate belts.
A disc screener sorts the large cardboard from the rest of the material.
Visual: Pieces of cardboard moving upwards.
The cardboard then travels directly on a conveyor belt to a baler.
Visual: Paper and boxboard moving upwards.
The remaining material is moved on two parallel conveyor belts to the main sorting room.
Visual: Staff sifting through material, putting items into different chutes.
Workers pull off the boxboard, and any leftover cardboard for recycling. Garbage is also removed.
Visual: Large piles of cardboard and paper, separated by concrete walls.
These materials are dropped into the appropriate bunkers directly below the main sort room.
Visual: Growing pile of paper.
The only remaining material is paper, which falls off the conveyor belts into its own bunker.
Visual: Tunnel full of items like bags, film plastic, bubble wrap.
Garbage removed from the recycling is transported to landfill.
Visual: Front-end loader dropping paper in front of baling machine.
Material is then moved from the bunkers for baling.
Visual: Large cube of boxboard leaving baling machine.
Paper, boxboard and cardboard is baled for shipping to market. Each bale can weigh up to 700 kilograms.
Visual: White truck leaving the facility.
The material is made into new products.
Visual: Animated water bottle appears, morphs into t-shirt.
Number 1 bottles are transformed into fleece, t-shirts, and parkas.
Visual: Animated laundry detergent bottle appears, morphs into pipe.
Number 2 plastics like laundry detergent bottles and shampoo bottles are transformed into water pipes, culverts, and more number 2 bottles.
Visual: Animated spray bottle appears, morphs into bench.
Mixed plastics like plastic tub lids are transformed into plastic lumber, playground equipment, and park benches.
Visual: Animated aluminum can appears, morphs into new aluminum can.
Aluminum like soft drink cans, are transformed into aluminum sheeting for automobiles and more aluminum cans.
Visual: Animated glass bottle appears, morphs into road.
Glass bottles & jars get transformed into road construction materials…
Visual: Animated soup can appears, morphs into chain.
… and steel soup cans get transformed into chains, piping, household appliances, and automotive parts.
Visual: Animated gable top container appears, morphs into paper towel roll.
Milk and juice boxes get transformed into paper towels, paper trays, cardboard and tissues.
Visual: Animated cardboard box appears, morphs into new box.
Old corrugated cardboard is transformed into more old corrugated cardboard.
Visual: Animated newspaper appears, morphs into new newspaper.
Paper is transformed into paper and insulation.
Visual: Animated cereal box appears, morphs into new box.
Boxboard is transformed into cereal and cracker boxes, etc.
Visual: Question appears, URL appears.
Not sure where to dispose of a household item? Visit Ottawa.ca/wasteexplorer
Visual: Ottawa logo appears.
Recycling creates jobs
Recycling creates jobs in the manufacturing and service sectors and boosts the economy.
Recycling protects our natural resources
One tree filters up to 60 lbs of pollutants each year.
Together, we can do better.
Based on the City’s most recent waste audit, 58 per cent of household waste currently going to the landfill belongs in the blue, black or green bins. We can do better to divert more waste!
In 2022, the blue bin had a 17 per cent contamination rate, with the largest contaminant being film plastic, e.g. plastic bags. The black bin had a three per cent contamination rate.