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Choosing Recycled Content

Making the connection between the blue box and what we buy.

After reading a newspaper and draining the last bit of liquid from a soft drink can, most Canadians toss these items into the recycling bin. The vast majority (97%) of households in Canada with access to recycling make use of these programs. But there is still more we can do.

Separating the recyclables from the garbage is essential. However, consumers play a vital role in making recycling programs work - and putting that newspaper or can in the right place is only one part of a bigger equation.


The Importance of Market Demand

A key part of successful recycling programs is creating demand for recycled content goods once they have been produced. It is just as important to look for and purchase recycled paints as it is to return your paint for safe recycling instead of sending it to the landfill. The more consumers seek out and demand recycled content when shopping, the bigger the market becomes for recycled content goods. Without this demand, there is little profit for the manufacturer who chose the more sustainable path, and little revenue for municipalities to continue running their recycling programs.

In many product categories, there is often a range of options that are better choices for the environment. More and more frequently, consumers can choose products made from recycled content. The Home Depot offers over 130 products made with recycled content, including flooring, lumber, paint, paint accessories, pipes and fittings, toilet seats, outdoor mats, insulation, storage containers and garden decor.


Notice the background is solid and the arrows are white. This indicates that a product is MADE from recycled content.


which indicates that the product can BE recycled - if the item is accepted at your local facility.


Responsible Recycling

It can be confusing to understand what is and what is not recyclable. Most items, in theory, are recyclable. However, different markets for raw materials exist in every part of the country. The polystyrene meat tray that is accepted in Toronto is not accepted in Red Deer because Toronto has a buyer for polystyrene while Red Deer does not.

It is important to periodically check with the municipal recycling facility or local government to confirm what can be recycled in a particular market since the items accepted as "recyclable" can change from time to time.

The items placed out for recycling become raw materials for an industrial process. Some materials are easier and more profitable to recycle than others. Newsprint for example, has weaker, more stretched fibres than cardboard and therefore will not produce as high quality raw material.

When the wrong materials or heavily contaminated materials are put into the recycling bin, it can negatively impact municipal recycling facilities by increasing costs and degrading the quality of the raw material sold to manufacturers. For example, if pizza is thrown into the recycling bin along with the pizza box, it can contaminate the entire bin.

Successful and Sustainable Recycling Programs

Recycling has become second nature to Canadians. But there is less awareness of what happens to the items we dispose of in municipal recycling programs, and the impact of consumer purchasing habits.

Successful recycling programs are dependent not only upon governments and manufacturers, but also on consumers. To ensure the viability of local recycling programs, Canadians can contribute by participating responsibly and supporting manufacturers who use recycled content, whenever possible.