Food + Drink,  Here + Now

5 Common Items Torontonians Throw Out Incorrectly

We’ve all been there before: standing at a garbage can, holding something you no longer want, and having no idea what to do next. Garbage sorting is difficult and frustrating, with contradictory information everywhere. And it differs depending on the municipality. The City of Toronto has made the searchable Waste Wizard database, but searching for what to do with every item can be tiresome to say the least. So, here is some clarity for all the frustrated Torontonians on how to throw out some tricky everyday items.

Pizza boxes

Photo credit: Pixabay

It seems so easy, right? Pizza boxes are clearly cardboard, so they go in the blue bin, right? Nope. The grease from all that delicious pizza, saturates the cardboard, tainting it with food. This item goes in the green bin, just like dirty paper towels. If you remove any pieces of clean cardboard, like the lid, that can still be recycled.

Ziploc bags

Photo credit: Jordan Ichikawa

These are now recyclable. Ziploc bags can be rinsed out and put in the blue bin, making them a great way to store food and other odds and ends if you don’t have Tupperware. Reusable storage is still better for most purposes, but Ziplocs are great when you need an airtight seal. I find them super handy for the freezer, myself. They need to be clean to be recycled though, so if you have a really dirty Ziploc bag that still goes in the garbage bin.

Old clothes

Photo credit: Kasia Serbin from

Old clothes are recyclable. However, they do not go in the blue bin, because they jam the sorting machines. Waste Wizard decrees that clothes and textiles go in the garbage bin, but there are other options as well. Gently used clothing can be donated or resold in many places, such as consignment stores, thrift stores, and charities. Thoroughly worn clothing can be upcycled, either by yourself, turning them into rags for home use, or by organizations. Fabric scraps can be turned into insulation, work rags, or sometimes into new clothing. The Salvation Army and recycling centres, as well as some clothing stores like H&M, American Eagle, and North Face do this. You should double check what the acceptance criteria is for any clothing recycler and checking what they actually do with the clothing is well-advised.

Black plastic 

Photo credit: Jordan Ichikawa

You can find black plastic everywhere. It is a popular choice for both grocery stores and takeout food. This is not just for its aesthetic appeal; it is also cheap to produce. However, it is not recyclable. Sorting machines cannot detect it, so it just becomes waste. Hope is not lost though. Not only is there enormous pressure to phase out black plastics, Toronto store The Sweet Potato has partnered with a private recycling company which can process black plastic. You can bring any clean black plastic to their store—at 108 Vine Avenue, northwest of Dundas West and Keele—and they will cover the cost of sending it to this facility.

Coffee cups

Photo credit: Kristin Hardwick from

Despite looking like paper, these omnipresent, ever used cups are not recyclable. The lids and cardboard sleeves can be recycled, so long as the lids are not black plastic; however, the cups themselves are wax lined to make them waterproof, which makes them unrecyclable. Occasionally, you can find special disposal bins for coffee cups at places like schools, but if not, they go in the regular garbage. So, rather than banking on finding a coffee cup recycling bin, it is much easier to bring your own cup. As an added bonus, many coffee places offer discounts for doing so.


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