Cleaning up after Kris Kringle: Holiday recycling dos and don'ts

This was the first holiday season in Calgary since the green bins rolled out, so a program management leader with the city's waste and recycling services walks us through what waste goes where.

What you should compost, recycle or throw away in Calgary

Confused about what kind of rubbish goes in which of your three bins? The city has some resources available to help you figure out what goes where. (CBC)

Many people will be starting off the new year with a post-Christmas cleanup now that 2017 is in the rearview mirror.

This past holiday season was the first since the City of Calgary rolled out the green carts as part of the composting program and Calgarians might be a little confused with how to use the new bin to dispose of their festive refuse.

Philippa Wagner, a program management leader with the city's waste and recycling services, told the Calgary Eyeopener exactly what Calgarians can recycle, what holiday scraps they can compost and what they should toss in the trash.

Food waste and leftovers

Wagner said some people are still getting used to the fact that any and all foods waste can go into the green carts.

"So whether it's that turkey carcass … meats or fats or bones, anything like that can go in your green cart for composting," Wagner said.

Around 320,000 green carts were delivered to single-family homes last year and the city has online resources available to let you know exactlywhat can be composted, recycled or thrown away

Christmas trees

Just like grass clippings and organic yard waste, Wagner says your real Christmas tree can also go in the green bin.

Wagner says to compost your tree you should de-limb it, cut it into manageable blocks, and place them in the compost cart. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

Cut up your Christmas tree into smaller pieces so that it fits in your green cart, Wagner says. If your green cart gets too full, she says you can bundle the branches together and stack them next to your green bin beside your cart or put them in a compostable paper yard work bag.

"There is also the option to take it into a depot," Wagner said. "We have 16 set up across the city so you can take your entire tree into one of those depots and it will be composted there."

Wrapping paper

As for what can be recycled, Wagner says most wrapping products can go in your blue bin as long as they aren't coated in foil or a or metallic coating.

"If it's just paper wrapping paper, yes, that can go in," she said, adding that you must remove any parts of boxes or bags that aren't made of paper, including fabric handles and ribbons.

Some items used for gift wrapping, including metallic-coated wrapping paper and fabric gift bag handles, are not recyclable materials. (CBC)

Do your best to remove any large pieces of tape attached to paper materials, "but a little bit of tape is just fine," Wagner said. Bubble wrap and inflatable packing pockets can also be recycled.

"We just ask that you put [bubble wrap] inside a plastic bag and tie the handle shut so it's all bundled up together," she said.

If you're not sure if something should be recycled or thrown away, Wagner says to check the item for a recycling symbol accompanied by a number for confirmation.

"So if they do have the recycling symbol and a number from 1 to 7 then yes, they can," she said. "If they don't have that number of them they do need to go in the garbage."

What to throw away

One exception to the above rule is products made from polystyrene foam, often called Styrofoam. 

The lightweight material is used in packaging and construction and cannot be recycled in Calgary, despite having recycling symbols on them.

Wagner says polystyrene products like Styrofoam can't be recycled in Calgary even if they have that recycling symbols on them. (CBC)

"If you do have [polystyrene] … even if it does have that recycling symbol on it, it is not accepted in our program and that would need to go in the black cart for garbage," Wagner said.

Polystyrene products include shipping materials like foam blocks and peanuts, foam coffee cups, take-out container and meat trays.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener