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 recyclable in BC, not all of it is. There are three main reasons why an item, plastic or otherwise, would not be accepted under the Multi-Material BC (MMBC) program:

1. It is a product. Only packaging and printed paper are covered by the BC Recycling Regulation and MMBC’s stewardship program.

2. It is hazardous waste or collected under another program. 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

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Most rigid plastic packaging is accepted under the Multi-Material BC (MMBC) 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
x Deposit beverage containers –return for refund or donate to charity

 

Blister Packaging – Accepted Curbside, Multi-Family & Depot

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Rigid 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

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Plastic bags and overwrap (made of LDPE/HDPE) can be recycled at any MMBC depot, along with foam packaging 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 are not accepted:

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 Lumber or construction wrap
x Stand up pouches, e.g. for soups, snacks and frozen foods

You can read more, on our blog, about recycling plastic bags and overwrap and plastic container packaging, and learn why MMBC does not used resin codes for communicating with residents about accepted packaging types.