Material Focus: Plastic Packaging - Recycle BC

Material Focus: Plastic Packaging

Many of the products we buy – toys, electronics, personal care products, groceries and more – come in plastic packaging. While much of this packaging is accepted in BC, not all of it is. There are three main reasons why an item, plastic or otherwise, would not be accepted under the Recycle BC program:

1. It is a product. Only packaging and paper are covered by the BC Recycling Regulation and Recycle BC’s program. Here’s a quick post on how to distinguish products vs. packaging.

2. It is hazardous waste or collected under another program. Batteries, electronics, propane canisters, sharps, for example, should be managed separately and returned to a depot accepting this material. Contact the Recycling Council of BC for recycling and safe disposal options.

3. It cannot be recycled. If current recycling technologies do not allow for the material to be processed, or there is no end market for the material, then the material is considered a contaminant.

Below we delve into three plastic packaging types and their recyclability.

Rigid Plastic – Accepted Curbside, Multi-Family & Depot

peanut butter jars one empty one full

Most rigid plastic packaging is accepted in the Recycle BC program. This includes plastic take-out cups, bowls and lids; microwavable bowls and cups; plastic bottles, jugs, jars, tubs and trays (including caps, tops, lids and pumps); rigid plastic clamshells for baked goods, fruit, eggs, etc.; plastic garden pots and seedling trays; and plastic pails less than 25 litres, for laundry detergent, pet food, etc. Rigid plastic packaging used to protect toys, electronics or other products within a corrugated cardboard or boxboard box, is also accepted and can be included with your container recycling.

Remember to empty and rinse containers. Labels may be left affixed to your plastic packaging as they can be lifted off during the recycling process.

Please be sure to exclude the following:

x Containers for paint, motor oil, vehicle lubricants, and antifreeze.
x Containers for pesticides with the words danger, warning or poison, and precautionary octagon or diamond symbols with skull and crossbones. (contact the Recycling Council of BC for safe disposal options)
x Products, such as lawn furniture, garden hoses, tarps, coat hangers, kitchen tools
x Toys (contact the Recycling Council of BC for recycling electronic or battery-operated toys)
x Pails larger than 25 litres

Blister Packaging – Accepted Curbside, Multi-Family & Depot



blister packageRigid plastic that is glued to a paper or boxboard backing is recyclable, as long as the paper and plastic portions of the packaging are separated.  This packaging type is commonly used for batteries, electronics, toothbrushes and other personal care products, and toys.


x Please exclude plastic packaging affixed to foil (for example chewing gum or pharmaceutical packaging). It is not compatible with the recycling process.


Plastic bags & overwrap – Accepted at Depots

Plastic bags and overwrap (made of LDPE/HDPE) can be returned to any Recycle BC depot, along with foam packaging, other flexible plastic packaging (below), and glass. Accepted materials include plastic bags for groceries, dry cleaning, bread, newspapers and flyers; bags for produce, pre-washed salad, dry bulk foods and frozen vegetables or fruit (if it is not zipper-top); outer bags for diapers, feminine hygiene products, paper towels, tissues, and soft drink can flats; bags for water softener, salt, wood pellets and garden products; and overwrap on mattresses, furniture and electronic equipment.

Remember to empty bags of paper receipts and food residue, and to remove metal grommets, rope drawstrings and non-plastic items from bags. This helps to ensure your bags get recycled as intended.

The following types of plastic packaging should not be included with plastic bags and overwrap, but many can be included with other flexbible plastic packaging (below):

x Products, such as kitchen stretch wrap, zipper-lock sandwich or freezer bags, or garbage bags
x Crinkly cellophane wrap, e.g. for tea, floral arrangements
x Soft packaging for meat, poultry, fish, cheese and other deli products
x Chip or snack bags
x Plastic shipping envelopes or bubble packaging
x Packaging labelled biodegradable or compostable
x Stand up pouches, e.g. for soups, snacks and frozen foods


Other Flexible Plastic Packaging – Accepted at Depots

three plastic stand-up pouches with zipper lockIn 2019, our partner depots started collected other flexible plastic packaging as part of our program. Other Flexible Plastic Packaging is one of the fastest-growing packaging types on the market and the largest category of packaging that previously wasn’t collected by Recycle BC. Other Flexible Plastic Packaging often includes multiple layers of different types of plastic, making it more difficult to recycle. Examples of Other Flexible Plastic Packaging include stand-up and zipper-lock pouches, like pouches for granola, frozen berries, etc.; crinkly wrappers and bags, like coffee bags, or chip bags; flexible packaging with plastic seal, like packaging for fresh pasta or pre-packaged deli meats; non-food protective wrap like bubble wrap or plastic envelopes; and net bags for onions, avocados, lemons, etc. Collection of Other Flexible Plastic Packaging is part of a research and development project to determine how we can best recycle this material.

Please be sure to exclude the following:

      x Plastic squeeze tubes
      x Paper-lined plastic or plastic-lined paper
      x Biodegradable or oxo plastics
      x Six-pack rings
      x PVC/Vinyl

You can read more about recycling plastic bags and overwrap and plastic container packaging, and learn why Recycle BC does not use resin codes for communicating with residents about accepted packaging types.