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Waste reduction and education

Quick Tips to Reduce Waste


  • Buy less.
  • Avoid unnecessary packaging and individually wrapped items.
  • Say no to non-recyclable plastic items like straws, clingfilm or styrofoam.
  • Stop buying so-called “convenience food” like pre-packaged meals.
  • Create a shopping list before hitting the grocery stores and stick to what you really need.
  • Instead of using coffee pods, try making coffee or tea the traditional way.
  • Swap paper towels for washable cloths and rags.
  • Choose liquid soap or powder over dishwasher and laundry detergent pods.
  • Use dryer balls instead of dryer sheets.
  • Support restaurants that use recyclable take-out containers.
  • Choose to go paperless for your bills, receipts & documents, for example your water bill or property taxes.


  • Plan weekly meals to reduce food waste.
  • Take inventory of your fridge and pantry, so you are mindful of foods and leftovers that need to be eaten soon.
  • Growing your own vegetables helps reduce packaging and energy costs associated with shipping fruits and vegetables globally. You can even do it with limited space, e.g. on a balcony.
  • Consider shopping in bulk or at zero waste food stores to save on packaging.
  • Use reusable cutlery, dishes and glassware.
  • Borrow or rent items as opposed to buying something you may only use once, for example at the Ottawa Tool Library.
  • Try and purchase quality clothing that will last, avoid fast fashion.
  • Buy rechargeable batteries.
  • Use reusable bags, bottles, cups and containers while out and about.
  • When making a purchase or disposal decision, consider the most environmentally friendly option.
  • Save all your refundable cans and bottles to be returned.


  • Shop at second-hand stores.
  • Give your household items and furniture a second life by donating them to thrift stores or local charities.
  • Regift things you don’t need or swap them with others.
  • Always attempt to repair before buying new.
  • Use old documents as scrap paper to write notes or lists.
  • Keep boxes and shipping material like bubble wrap for the next time you need to mail a parcel.
  • Save gift wrap and bags for another occasion.
  • Reuse food packaging materials such as bread clips and elastics.
  • Join a digital trading, swapping, give-away platform or community group, for example there are many for all purposes on Facebook.


  • Get creative and use items found around the house for crafts, e.g. create funky bracelets from plastic bags, lampshades from broken umbrellas, room dividers from CDs, even coffee tables from old windows.
  • Use empty glass mason jars as vases, candle jars or to store food in.
  • Good at sewing? Upcycle and turn any bland piece of clothing into an eye-catcher.
  • Make bird feeders out of plastic bottles.
  • Turn old clothes into household rags to replace paper towels.
  • Save and wash empty containers (e.g. yogurt containers, ice cream containers…) to use as household kitchenware.


  • Participate in the City’s recycling and composting programs to help divert waste from the landfill.
  • Make an effort to recycle all plastic containers used around your home, including shampoo and laundry detergent bottles.
  • Check out the City of Ottawa's Waste Explorer to find out how to dispose of your household items properly.
  • Most household items can be taken back for reuse or recycling to more than 575 retailers in the Ottawa area. Visit the Waste Explorer for a retailer near you

Summer tips!

In preparation for Ontario’s reopening plan, here are some tips for your summer activities.

  • When having picnics, BBQs or travelling:
    • Bring extra reusable containers to take your food scraps and recyclables home and properly dispose of them.
    • If you can, bring your own household cutlery, dishes, and cups.
    • Make your own food to bring to avoid unnecessary plastic packaging.
    • Keep the menu simple, plan in advance, don’t waste any food.
    • Check out our video with recycling tips for a picnic.
  • Attend your local farmer’s market to reduce packaging and emissions from transportation.
  • Need new clothes for the summer? Check out thrift stores before hitting the malls, to see if you can get a bargain and give clothes a second chance!
  • Choose summer activities that don’t involve any waste! For example, playing sports, card games, biking, going on walks, skateboarding, rollerblading, stargazing…
  • Create a Zero Waste Kit for your summer outings: think ahead and come prepared with reusable containers, straws and bags to reduce the amount of plastic you use while on the go. Keep these goodies in your car or your purse for convenience.

Interested in finding out more?

Invite the Public Works and Environmental Services outreach team to provide a presentation about Ottawa’s green bin and recycling programs to your school or community group! All presentations are subject to audience size and outreach team availability.

Zero Waste Challenge

Take the first step towards a more sustainable life and challenge yourself and your family to bring down the amount of waste you’re creating. Reducing your ecological footprint is surprisingly easy. All you need to do is print out the pledge sheet and decide on a pledge for each day of the week. You can either come up with your own ideas or choose from the list below.

Today I pledge …

  • To only buy what I need and know I will use.
  • To bring my own bags and produce bags when I go grocery shopping.
  • To refuse any single-use plastic items or packaging.
  • To plan out this week’s meals in advance along with a specific shopping list.
  • To cook all my meals homemade.
  • To not create any avoidable food waste.
  • To make coffee or tea at home instead of buying it in a single-use cup.
  • To keep all empty cans and bottles to be returned to stores.
  • To mend or repurpose a piece of clothing I don’t wear.
  • To donate an unwanted item to thrift stores or charity.
  • To transition from paper to online subscriptions.
  • To make an effort and throw out all my organics and recyclables in the green, blue, and black bin.
  • To look up any item I am unsure about on the Waste Explorer.
  • To try and not use anything that ultimately has to go in the garbage.
  • To turn off the water when not using it for more than a couple seconds.
  • To encourage as many people as possible to participate in this challenge with me.

Household Waste Diary

A waste diary is an effective way to understand your own recycling and disposal habits. Participating in this simple activity will show you what and how much of which material you throw out during an average week.

Print out the waste diary table and record everything you put in each of your bins over a one-week period. Don’t forget to count what goes into the garbage cans in your bathroom, bedrooms, laundry room or at your desk. If the whole family gets involved, each member can fill in their own table.

At the end of the week, look at your complete table and reflect on your findings.

  • How much garbage did you create?
  • What waste categories do you produce the most of? The least of?
  • Did you put recyclable/compostable material in the garbage? Or vice versa?
  • Which items were commonly misplaced? Not sure? Check the Waste Explorer to find out where an item belongs.
  • Was there an item that did not go in any of the bins? What did you do with it?
  • Did you throw out any items that could have been reused, repurposed or donated?

Being mindful of ways to create less waste and taking full advantage of the City’s blue, black, and green bin programs is good for the environment. It helps reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere and protects our natural resources. It also extends the life span of our Trail Road landfill site.

When in doubt about what to do with an item, consult the Waste Explorer.