Curbside Recycling - Frequently Asked Questions

Phasing Out Single Use Recycling Bags FAQs

Q. Why are single use recycling bags (blue bags/clear bags) being phased out?

The provincial recycling program, Recycle BC, requires single use bags to be phased out because reusable containers are more environmentally friendly (create less waste) and single use bags negatively impact the recycling process by getting tangled in the sorting equipment.

*Note: single use bags refers to blue bags and clear bags used to contain recycling when placed at the curb. It does not refer to grocery/shopping bags, which will continue to be accepted for recycling at local Recycling/Bottle Depots.

Q. Will the City be providing recycling containers?

Yes, the City will be providing recycling containers at no additional cost to residents. The style of container chosen will be determined by taking into consideration container information/pricing from suppliers and the results of the City of Chilliwack Recycling Container Survey.

Q. What if I don’t like the style of container selected?

Although the City will only be providing one type of container, residents will be able to use a different container if there is another style or size that they prefer. All containers must have a tight-fitting lid and two handles for lifting, with a maximum volume of 120L (32 gal.). The lid must be removable and not hinged or permanently attached to the container since the container will be emptied manually by the collection crew.

Q. What if the container style selected isn’t large enough to fit all of my recycling?

The City may make additional containers available if residents require them to accommodate all of their recycling; container limits will be determined once a final container style and pricing are confirmed. Residents should also consider flattening cardboard and plastic containers to reduce the volume of recyclables.

Q. When will the containers be provided and single use bags phased out?

The timeline has not been finalized yet as it will depend on the delivery time for the selected container style, but it will occur in 2018. There will be an education phase to give residents time to transition from bags to containers. More details about timing will be provided as they are confirmed.

Q. What if I have more recycling on occasion that won’t fit in the container provided? I do not have space to store additional containers.

If on occasion if you end up having more recycling than can fit in your recycling container, you will be able to place the extra material in any other container as long as it has a lid, is clearly labeled as recycling and is not more than 120L in volume. Alternatively, extra recyclables can be taken to one of the municipal Recycling Depots or Bottle Depots.

Q. Will the City replace my container if it is damaged during collection?

Yes, if we have reason to believe that the container was damaged during collection then the City will replace it and no extra cost.

Q. Who is responsible for cleaning litter created by curbside materials?

If litter is created by the container tipping over, wildlife or wind prior to collection, it is the resident’s responsibility to ensure that the material is cleaned up. If litter is created during collection, it is the collection contractor’s responsibility to clean up the spill.

Q. How can I prepare shredded paper for recycling?

Shredded paper will still be accepted in a clear plastic bag in the recycling container. The volume of plastic bags with shredded paper is so minimal that the crews will be able to separate them at the recycling facility.

Q. Will flattened cardboard still be collected even if it is not in a container?

Yes, flattened cardboard in stacks or bundles will still be collected when placed at the curb.

Q. Why did our curbside recycling program change?

Chilliwack joined the new provincial stewardship program for packaging and printed paper on March 1, 2017. This brought some changes to our curbside recycling program.

The stewardship program helps shift the responsibility for recycling packaging and printed paper to the businesses that produce those materials. The program is administered by RecycleBC (formerly Multi-Material BC), who collects funds from the producers and offers financial incentives for curbside collection programs. Joining the program has helped keep Chilliwack's curbside fees low.

Q. What are the main differences with the new program?

Most items that were already accepted in our recycling program before March 1st  continue to be collected under the new program.

As of March 1st, 2017, you are able to recycle these new items at curbside:

  • Aerosol and spray cans for materials such as air freshener, hair spray, and food (eg. cooking spray)
  • Cardboard and metal wound containers for chips, frozen juice and nut containers
  • Dairy cartons
  • Frozen dessert containers
  • Un-numbered rigid plastic packaging (eg. for batteries, toothbrushes)

The following materials are not allowed mixed in with your curbside recycling:

  • Plastic bags for groceries, bread and produce etc.
  • Plastic overwrap from furniture, outer bags and wrap for diapers, feminine hygiene products, paper towels, tissues and soft drink can flats etc.
  • Glass jars and bottles
  • Styrofoam containers and packaging (styrofoam was also not accepted in curbside recycling prior to March 1st)

These materials can be recycled free of charge at recycling depots.

Q. Why can't I recycle glass, plastic bags or styrofoam with my other curbside recyclables?

The new program requires these materials to be separated from the other curbside recyclables to increase processing efficiency because they can break easily and are more difficult to sort. RecycleBC wants glass kept separate because it maintains a higher quality, which allows it to be recycled to the highest possible use. By keeping plastic bags separate, they don’t impact the sorting process by getting caught up in the equipment, and it also allows for the highest possible use. Styrofoam was not accepted in curbside recycling prior to March 1st so it is not a new requirement.

The City may incur financial penalties through RecycleBC if these materials are found to be mixed in with curbside recyclables.

Plastic bags, glass jars/containers, and styrofoam can be dropped off at recycling depots free of charge.

Q. Why isn’t glass being collected separately at the curb?

The City looked into the separate collection of glass, but it is not cost-effective. Most communities that are collecting glass separately have multi-stream recycling programs where residents separate recyclables into several different containers/bags at the curb and the collection vehicles have separate compartments.

We had designed Chilliwack’s recycling program to be as convenient as possible for residents with commingled collection of materials and therefore our recycling collection vehicles do not have separate compartments to facilitate the separate collection of glass.

Fortunately, in Chilliwack glass makes up only a very small percentage of the total volume of recyclables placed at the curb. It is difficult to justify the additional expense of separate glass collection given the low quantities.

Q. What are all of the recyclables accepted?

A complete list of recyclables accepted under the new program can be found here.

Q. Are there any other changes to the way recyclables are collected?

No. Residents may continue using existing recycling containers or blue/clear bags for placing materials at the curb. Flattened cardboard can be placed in your recycling container or stacked beside/under containers. Each container can be up to a maximum of 120L and must have a lid and handles.

There is no limit to the amount of recyclables you can place at the curb for collection.

Q. Why was my recycling not collected?

Look for an information tag on your container/bags. The City has instructed our curbside collection contractor to place an information tag if curbside recyclables contain non-compliant materials.  For the first phase of the education/compliance program, most non-compliant materials will still be collected and information tags will be left. 

During the second phase of enforcement, starting September 26th,  non-compliant materials will be tagged and left uncollected.

Some common items that may cause your material to be left uncollected include

  • Styrofoam containers and packaging
  • Plastic bags for groceries, bread and produce etc.
  • Plastic overwrap from furniture, outer bags and wrap for diapers, feminine hygiene products, paper towels, tissues and soft drink can flats etc.
  • Glass jars and bottles
  • Other garbage or contamination

If you did not receive an information tag and your material was uncollected, please contact the Emterra Environmental office at 604.795.7795 for assistance.

Q. Can I still use plastic grocery bags to line my kitchen/bathroom garbage containers?

Yes, residents can still use grocery bags for some bathroom and kitchen waste (the non-compostable portion).  Since the new compostable waste collection program started in May any compostable waste (food waste, food-soiled paper, facial tissue and yard waste) cannot be placed in plastic bags.  For more information about the compostable waste program click here.   

Please bring extra grocery bags that are not of use to one of the four depots for recycling; many grocery stores also accept grocery bags for recycling.  In addition to grocery bags, the depots accept items like bread bags and overwrap from furniture, outer bags and wrap for diapers, feminine hygiene products, paper towels, tissues and soft drink can flats for recycling.   

Q. What type of container do I use for recycling?

Recyclables can be placed at the curb in any of the following ways:

  • In a container with a tight fitting lid.
  • In an open-top container as long as the materials within are contained in a clear/clear-blue plastic bag, tied tightly. (Note: bags are being phased out in 2018, see above)
  • In clear/clear-blue plastic bags, tied tightly, set by themselves at the curb. (Note: bags are being phased out in 2018, see above)

If you choose to use containers, the City provides free “We Recycle” decals, which should be placed on the container you will use for recycling. The “We Recycle” decal is NOT to be used on blue bags.

Q. Do I need to remove the labels from tin cans before I recycle them? What about flattening the cans?

There is no need to remove any labels from your recyclable cans. If you want to remove them, they can be placed in the same container to be recycled as paper fibre. Cans do not need to be crushed or flattened, just give them a quick rinse and toss them in.

Q. I don't want to waste water washing the containers, how clean do they need to be?

There is no need to thoroughly wash containers, but they have to be relatively free of food or other waste materials.  This is not a new requirement; the same applied to our previous recycling program.

RecycleBC recommends emptying the containers and giving them a quick rinse in leftover dishwater before adding them to recycling. This helps minimize any food residue spoiling the recyclability of materials.

Q. What about the changes to the curbside program that started May 1st?

The curbside program changed in two stages:

  1. March 1st - changes to what materials are accepted for recycling came into effect.
  2. May 1st - the weekly collection of compostable materials (food waste, food-soiled paper and yard waste) started and garbage collection changed to bi-weekly. Click here for more information.


Description Date File Size
Plastics Recycling Guide 2017-04-05 491KB