Hamilton, Ontario (pop. 504,560), has proven itself an example of effective municipal recycling for cities across North America. In 1981, the province of Ontario introduced the iconic “blue bin,” which has become a standard across the continent. As part of this history, the city of Hamilton operates a two-stream recycling system, asking residents to put paper in one blue bin and plastics, metal and glass in another. Residents’ recyclables are then picked up and taken to a Materials Recycling Facility, where they are sorted, bailed and sold locally to either Ontario- or Hamilton-based businesses. For more info on what can be recycled and where to put it, check out this chart.

Materials Recycled

  • Plastics: Fifteen-litre plastic water bottles (no-deposit), applesauce cups (single serving), aseptic container/box (soy, milk, juice, water, soup, drinks), coffee cup lids, coffee cups (polystyrene),bread bag (plastic), cottage cheese tub, dry cleaning bag, egg carton (clear plastic), egg carton (foam), empty plastic bags (soil, mulch, compost, peat moss, sand, triple mix, fertilizer or manure) , CD and DVD cases, frozen dinner plastic food tray, frozen juice container, gift card, grocery bag (plastic), household cleanser bottle (empty), ice cream cartons, iced cappuccino cups, juice box (juice, wine, water, drinks, soup, broth), margarine tub, milk bag – inner – rinsed, milk bag – outer, milk carton, plastic bottle, plastic coat hangers, plastic coffee container, plastic cookie and cracker bag trays, plastic drinking cups, plastic flower pot and plant pots and trays (clean, max 12 inch, #5 PP), plastic food container, plastic ice cream tub, plastic jar, plastic jug for detergent, laundry soap, fabric softener etc., plastic pail (five litres or less in size), plastic produce containers, plastic sandwich bag, food packaging (with zipper removed), plastic soap bottle, plastic tub, plastic tub lid, plastic water bottles (250 ml – 4 litres sizes),polystyrene containers and plates, polystyrene foam packaging (white), polystyrene “popcorn” packaging, produce bag, shampoo bottle, sour cream tub, Styrofoam peanuts, yogurt, beverage container, yogurt tub and yogurt/pudding cup (single serve).
  • Paper: Blueprint paper or blueprints, book (hardcover, with the cover removed), book (paperback), boxboard, bread bag (paper), bristol board (clean), calendar, cardboard box, cardboard container, catalogue, cereal box, cigarette packages (outer cardboard), computer paper, construction paper (clean), detergent box, egg carton (paper), envelope (with plastic window), envelope (without plastic window), file folders, flyers, frozen food box, gift bag (rope removed, non-metallic), gift Boxes, gift Tag (without foil), gift wrapping paper (non-metallic), greeting card, household paper, index card, junk mail, magazine, newspaper, packing paper, paper (writing), paper egg carton, paper roll, phone book, pizza box (empty- no food residue or plastics), postcard, posters, potato chip container (cardboard can), printed paper, shoe box, shredded paper (loose), tissue box, tissue wrapping paper, toilet paper tube, white (granulated) paper sugar bags and writing paper. 
  • Metal: Aerosol can (empty), aluminum foil (clean), aluminum foil plate, aluminum foil tray, antifreeze empty container, coffee can, cookie tin, food can (aluminum and steel), metal coffee can, paint can (empty), pop can, steel can (soup and other) 
  • Glass: Glass bottle, glass coffee jar and glass jar


Recyclables should be placed into their respective blue bins – paper and container, glass and plastic. All bins should be placed by the curb by 7 a.m. on the scheduled waste pick-up day. They should not be placed outside before 7 p.m. the night before.

Other programs

Residents can win a “gold” box from the City by showing off how they recycle and reduce waste. To win, residents must make sure they are correctly sorting waste, recyclables and composting, as well as only putting one bag of trash out per week. 

For a limited time, the City is also accepting bulky, plastic items free of charge. These items can be taken to one of Hamilton’s three Community Recycling Centres. Plastic items accepted include: 
  • Plastic buckets and pails 
  • Plastic crates and trays 
  • Plastic laundry baskets 
  • Plastic lawn furniture 
  • Plastic pet carriers
  • Plastic pots 
  • Large plastic toys 
  • Plastic playhouses 
  • Totes and tool cases 
  • Plastic garbage bins 
  • Recycling bins 

The Community Recycling Centres also will recycle appliances and scrap metal, such as air conditioners, washers and dryers, dish washers, microwaves, ovens, refrigerators and freezers, stoves, bikes, bedframes, filing cabinets, sinks and tubs, among other items.

Hamilton also picks up residents’ yard waste, transforming it into nutrient-rich compost. Every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., residents can come down with a pail to scoop up fresh compost for their yards. For more information on Hamilton’s green bins and/or composting, click here.

More information

For more information, visit Hamilton’s Garbage & Recycling page.