5 things you didn’t know you could recycle

Cigarette butts are one of the surprising things that most people don't realize can be recycled. John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images

Editor’s Note: The below information is about specialty recycling programs available across Canada and is not related to municipal recycling services offered at the curb. Check with your municipality to find out what can and cannot be recycled at the curb in your area. 

TORONTO – While the best form of recycling is reusing, sometimes you flat out need to get rid of something. If you feel guilty with every piece of trash you produce, take pleasure in knowing that these five things you might not have realized could be recycled, can be without much effort.

Ziploc bags

No matter how hard you try to have a litterless lunch, sometimes you just need to use a plastic bag to put your sandwich or snacks in. The good (surprising) news – Ziploc bags can be recycled at grocery stores that accept plastic shopping bags. You can even mix the two together to make it easier when you do your next grocery shop (bread and newspaper bags can also be dropped off in these bins). The bags are used mostly to make composite lumber from companies like TimberTech and Trex, which is good for fence and deck building.

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Cereal bags

TerraCycle Canada recycles all sorts of packaging and household items, including coffee bags and pods, snack and drink pouches and pet food bags. One of their most popular programs, however, is recycling cereal bags and liners. These get turned into new products, such as garden pavers, outdoor children’s items and garbage cans. You can sign-up with TerraCycle as an individual or business and once you or your office have accumulated enough bags and liners to send in, you box them up, print off a free shipping label and drop it off at the post office. For more info on the programs TerraCycle offers, visit

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One of the worst things you can throw in the trash is carpet. Not only does it take upwards of 50 years to decompose, it also accounts for four per cent of landfill waste (second only to disposable diapers). Ontario-based Aspera Recycling is working to stop carpet from heading to the landfill. They collect discarded carpet and ship it to facilities in the U.S. that either turn it back into new carpet or use it to make other products. The company also works with local depots across Canada, such as Green Coast Rubbish in B.C., to make the process easier for customers. For details on how to dispose of your carpet and any fees associated with it, contact Aspera Recycling via their website.

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Cigarette butts

Everyone knows smoking is bad for your health, but you might not realize how bad the discarded butts are for the environment. National Geographic calls cigarette butts the “world’s number one litter problem” and they represent the most common form of trash found in the ocean, according to Ocean Conservancy. Thanks to TerraCycle Canada, cigarette butts can be recycled the same way they recycle cereal bags and liners (see above). Butts, along with ash and the foil and plastic found on cigarette packaging, can be collected and mailed to TerraCycle using a free shipping label. They can also be disposed of in a “butt bin” like they have in Vancouver. The end products include park benches, plastic pellets and composite lumber.

Drywall and concrete

Both drywall (or gypsum board, if you prefer) and concrete can be grounded down and turned back into new materials. Most waste management facilities across Canada will accept drywall as long as all nails and screws are removed (there may be a fee associated at the facility in your area so check first). Concrete can be dumped for free directly at most manufacturer’s facilities, such as LaFarge, or at waste facilities, usually for a fee. Depending on the quality of the materials or where they came from, you can also check online classified services like Kijiji and Craigslist for people looking to use these materials.

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SOUND OFF: Know of other items you can recycle that aren’t that well known? Share them in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

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