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how to sort your trash? The complete guide

how to sort your trash? The complete guide

**This article has been translated automatically and will be reviewed soon.**

This is the 4th of our 52 actions this year. Learn more about our 52 gestures.

And who says proposing a gesture says: do it with the rest of you!! :D

So I spent a week learning about the subject, reading all the Tricentris publications over a year to learn about good recycling practices.

I also read about compost, about ecocenters, about several RECYC-QUÉBEC programs. I truly feel more equipped! And I think I can help you find yourself. 💚

I have therefore listed the main essential information here, in the same blog article, so that at the end of this article (so in what... 5-10 minutes of reading? 😬), we understand once and for all where put our waste away and we all become super good at sorting at source!

Because that’s also what Boat Boat is: we are here to make things easier in terms of environmental actions! And not just when you blow your nose or go to the bathroom.


According to the website of the Ministry of the Environment, the Fight against Climate Change, Wildlife and Parks , this is the hierarchy of actions to prioritize for sound management of residual materials.

3RV-E: There are three words that start with R, a V (but in fact, there are two categories in the V). Maybe that’s why the dash? Otherwise, it's to separate the E because we like it less. It's a hierarchy, so we always prefer the smallest numbers:

1. Reduction at source: refuse, do not consume waste.
2. Reuse: reuse waste or make another product from it or give it a different use.
3. Recycling: completely transforming waste (shredding, melting) to make a new product.
4. Material or energy recovery: destruction of waste with the aim of giving it a final useful life (e.g. compost or incineration for energy).
5. Disposal: This is the last resort. It is a waste lost for life.

Why do we sort our waste? So that everything doesn't end up in 5! Because certain materials can be reused, recycled or recovered before reaching final disposal. So that's why we put recyclable materials in the recycling bin, organic materials in the brown bin, why we give our small objects to donation centers to give them a second life and why we bring them back a host of large objects that we don't really know where to throw away in the ecocenters.


What can we put in the recycling bin?

Just ask yourself these questions:

👉 Is it a container?


👉 Is it packaging?


👉 Is it a print?

If we answer YES to one of the questions: we look at the material!

Plastic, cardboard, paper, glass and metal usually go in the bin. But there are several exceptions! And we have to know them so as not to make any mistakes in the baccalaureate. We'll start with the hardest part:


1.1 Rigid plastic

Hello mobius! 👋 This is the name of this symbol: ♻️ It is found on rigid plastic containers with a number or letters inside; This is used to identify the type of plastic:

1 ♻️ PETE (e.g. bottle of water or soft drink, small fruit tray)

Recyclability: good ✅

2 ♻️ HDPE (e.g. windshield washer or detergent bottle, ice cream tub, shampoo bottle)

Recyclability: good ✅

3 ♻️ PVC (e.g. sheet or shower curtain packaging, vegetable oil bottles, or packaging that contains scissors and requires scissors to open it)

Recyclability: low 👎

4 ♻️ LDPE or LDPE (e.g. cream tube, single-use grocery bag, shipping polymailers)

Recyclability: low 👎

5 ♻️ PP food grade plastic (e.g. yogurt or margarine pot, transparent container for prepared meals, lid)

Recyclability: good ✅

7 ♻️ Others (e.g. PLA and so-called biodegradable or oxodegradable plastic glasses)

Recyclability: very low 👎

Missing a number eh? Let's see, I don't know how to count!?

This is because rigid plastics 1-2-3-4-5-7 are accepted in bins at home, but not 6 ♻️ Polystyrene (e.g. meat tray, disposable plastic tableware, coffee cup) . 5-6 cities and MRCs in Quebec accept it in the bin only and some ecocenters also accept them, but not all. In these cases, you should know that it is not recycled but undergoes energy recovery. To remember the cursed number, we remember that it is the devil's number 666. 😈

Soon (but we don't really know when), the 3 ♻️ and the 7 ♻️ will no longer be accepted in the bin either. And the 4 ♻️, it's not great given its low recyclability. So anyway, to make it simpler, from today on, we thought we could just remember three numbers: 1 ♻️ - 2 ♻️ - 5 ♻️.

It could be 521 too, if that's easier to remember. Or 152 or 215 or 512 or 251. In short, we take the combination of our choice and we now make choices according to this combination.

We avoid packaging that is not 1-2-5 when we go to the grocery store. In other words, if we have the choice between a package that has the number 5 ♻️ or another with the number 3 ♻️, we take the one with the 5 ♻️! Because 3 is not part of our magic three-digit combination.

1.2 Soft plastic

For soft plastic, the rule is super clear:

DOES IT STRETCH EASILY? (like saran wrap or bread bag)

👍 If so, it goes in a tote bag. ✅

We remove the paper label if there is one, we put the plastics which stretch in a transparent bag and when it is full, we tie a knot and presto! in the bin!

👎 If not, it goes in the trash 🗑

And this, even if there is a ♻️ on it (no matter the number), even if it says 100% recyclable or even if it is really fine. We are often lied to on packaging!

As Tricentris shared with us here on Facebook .

The rest of the story of the sack of potatoes in the 24-hour newspaper .

Like the bags from Dollorama .

Also pay attention to American programs like which recycle plastic that does not stretch! It doesn't go in the bin at home!! You have to report it to them. And there aren't really any buyers or outlets for it, so is it really recycled? We do not know. 🤷‍♀️
Same for the TerraCycle programs which magically recover lots of soupy plastic which does not stretch (like Halloween candy wrappers), but which is not super transparent compared to its outlets and which therefore MAYBE money on the back of wishcycling?

In short, flexible packaging that doesn't stretch goes in the trash.

Do we see a mobius on a plastic toy? On a portable bidet? On an iron? You have to be careful. It doesn't go in the bin, because it's not a container! ;)


👍 Boxes, paper and printed matter are recyclable!

Newspapers, magazines, out-of-bag flyers and IKEA/Uline catalogs;
Paper bags;
Folded cardboard boxes;
Egg cartons;
Slightly soiled pizza box;
Ice cream pots, coffee and soft drink cups ( yes, yes! These can be recycled in most regions );
Tetrapack and juice/milk boxes (yes yes! that works too);
Tax papers older than 7 years shredded and put in a transparent stretch bag.


👎 Watch out! There are contexts where paper/cardboard does not go in the recycling bin:

Ultra soiled paper or cardboard, the kind soaked in grease;
Parchment paper;
Waxed paper;
Bubble envelope (because we cannot separate the plastic);
Cardboard straws, cardboard bread clips (too small, risk of getting lost in the sorting center, it is better to put them in the compost);
DIY with 2 inches thick gouache.



👍 Glass containers are recyclable and recycled here in Quebec.

Glass jars, Mason jars, bottles.


Ideally, we reuse the glass jars for other uses or we return our returnable bottles for reuse instead of recycling them (reuse is much better for the planet!).

👎 Watch out! There are contexts where glass (or we could say window) does not go in the recycling bin:

Glass from which one drinks;
Window, patio door;

IT DOESN'T GO IN THE RECYCLING BIN ❌ Because it's made of a different type of glass.


4.1 Rigid metal

👍 Metal containers are infinitely recyclable!

Canning canes;


*You can also return the returnable cans to grocery stores or give them to an organization in your region or to someone who picks them up ( Downpayment project ).

👎 Besides, there's a good chance that it's not a container, so it doesn't go in the bin but rather at the ecocenter.

4.2 Soft metal

But how do you know if “it’s patent there” (insert packaging that has a metallic look of your choice) is aluminum?

It's simple: we make a ball with it and open our hand.

🩸 If it is bleeding, we may have squeezed too hard... or used knives, which are neither a container nor a packaging so it goes in the trash (or perhaps in certain ecocenters, but never in the bin).

👍 If the ball stays in a ball in our hand when we open it, GO IN THE BIN! ✅

👎 If the ball "springs" and does not stay in a nice ball, it is silver plastic.

Like the inside of bags of chips or like the metallic gift wrap which is very beautiful but which you should never buy. I talked about this above in the soft plastic section: Plastic that doesn't stretch = trash. ❌


We do not need to thoroughly clean our containers before putting them in the bin.

Just empty them.

They can be rinsed briefly with a splash of dishwater, but there is no need to use 3 gallons of water to thoroughly rinse a pot. Empty the jar of peanut butter with a spatula and it's perfect! The pie plate, the aluminum dish or the aluminum foil, same thing: we remove the food residue, we make a semi-ball with it to trap the charred crust. And hop! in the bin! ✅


This is not obligatory, but when you have time to do so, remove the paper/plastic from the containers before putting them in the bin.

For example, for boxes or papers with a plastic window (the bread bag with a window, the box of pastries with a window, the envelope with a window, the infamous tissue box and its plastic... If you are not yet converted to soft handkerchiefs, Bateau Bateau ), remove the plastic before putting them in the bin.

If we come across non-stretchy plastic wrapped on rigid plastic (e.g. drinking yogurt), we remove it and throw it in the trash before putting the rigid plastic in the bin.

We can even give a second life to the paper (non-sticker and which tears easily) which surrounds a container if we separate them (e.g. can). Both will go in the bin.

~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~


If you have an organic collection in your city/neighborhood, you are really lucky and you should take advantage of it!

Organic matter thrown away is a real problem. First, they constitute approximately 60% of the 5.8 million tonnes of residual materials eliminated each year in Quebec ( source ). It is enormous.

And then, when food waste is taken to landfills, it has no air and is so compacted that it decomposes much more slowly and emits methane, a more harmful greenhouse gas than CO2.

What can be put in the brown bin? Just ask yourself these questions:

👉 Is it eaten (was/was eaten)?


👉 Is it soiled or wet paper or cardboard?

If you answer YES to one of the questions: it goes in the brown bin! ✅

👍 Concretely, this includes:
Fruit, vegetable and coffee residues
Bones, fat, shells and residues of meat, fish and seafood
Leftover dishes and expired food
Soiled or wet papers

For green waste (leaves, cut grass, etc. but not branches or invasive plants), you must check whether your city collects it in the same bin or if it is collected separately. But it goes in the brown bin!

And if we want to go further (parchment paper, ashes, cork, hair, animal fur or poop, etc.) there are regional exceptions. You have to check with your municipality if it is accepted in the brown bin or not.

👎 As for compostable bags, WE AVOID PUTTING THEM IN THE BIN ❌.

Several composting sites in Quebec are not authorized to receive food waste in plastic bags, even in certified compostable bags. You must therefore check and be certain that they are accepted.

Even when it is accepted, we avoid them. For what? Because you have to be a brown bin pro to be 100% certain that it goes in the brown bin! In fact, people often confuse them with biodegradable or oxo biodegradable bags which NEVER go into any bin. Some bags also sometimes have misleading labels such as “degradable, 100% biodegradable, natural or good for the environment”. It doesn't go in the brown bin either.

The only ones that are truly compostable in facilities that can accept them are bags certified by the Bureau de normalization du Québec (BNQ). To find out more about using bags, visit the RECYC-QUÉBEC website .

So in short, lots of regional exceptions! But we can still be sure of one thing, everything that fits into the two basic questions = it works.

~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~


What can you bring to a donation center? Just ask yourself these questions:

👉 Is this a piece of clothing that can still be worn?


👉 Is this an item in good condition?


👉 Is it still solid furniture?

If we answer YES to one of the questions: we can take our items to a donation center.

👍 Thrift stores like Renaissance or The Salvation Army collect small objects that are still functional, toys, clothes, dishes. There are more specialized thrift stores too (e.g. items for young children only, vintage clothing and accessories). Other places like Estrie Aide, EcoDepot Montréal or Écoscéno even collect furniture, theater sets...

You can also donate everything in donation groups on Facebook (Do you have this? / Do you want this?).

Oh! And if it's a car, you can donate it to an environmental organization: Auto pour l'environnement

And if we ever want money in return for our things, there is Marketplace, Kijiji...

👎 If it's in very poor condition (like, we wouldn't even give it to a friend), it's better to take it to the ecocenter or try to give it on Facebook (being clear about the problems of the object). You never know, maybe it can still be useful to someone or maybe someone can repair it!

~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~


What to bring to the ecocenter? Just ask yourself these questions:


👉 Is it an electronic device? (e.g. serpuarians )


👉 Is it a building material? (e.g. wood, metal, stone, brick)


👉 Is this dangerous household waste? (e.g. paint, solvent, aerosol)


👉 Is it green residue? (e.g. branches, stump)


👉 Is it bulky? (e.g. furniture, mattresses, household appliances)

The ecocenters take quite a bit of stock!

Certain exceptions must be validated: some also accept tires , batteries , light bulbs , propane tanks, ink cartridges, cooking oil, old pots, telephones, car wrecks, car batteries, etc.

~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~


What do we put in the trash?

There aren't really any questions to ask. That's all the rest. Literally.

We notice that what remains is MOSTLY plastic packaging or cushions... that's well dust (from a dryer or vacuum cleaner)! Otherwise, there are also stickers/labels, clothes too worn to be donated, 3D crafts (like macaroni) and broken objects.

~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~


It's always a good idea to look at your trash... To look at what you throw away the most and see if you can reduce that.

Afterwards, it's always a good idea to look at your recycling bin... To look at what we throw away the most and see if we can reduce that, to prioritize reuse or our 3 figures, to pay attention to wishcycling also (this is when we don't listen to the basic rules, and we put a lot of stuff in the recycling telling ourselves that it will surely be recycled)!

Next, it's always a good idea to look at your compost bin... To see if it is the scene of food waste.

Ultimately, the best thing is to reduce at the source.

Do I really need it?
Do I really need this plastic cushion? Do I really need that much celery this week (we're actually going to eat it all)? Do I really need this brand that comes in this plastic that doesn't recycle that much (or can I try another one with more eco-friendly packaging)?

In other words, while waiting for companies to take a little more responsibility and for laws with teeth to arrive in Quebec to ban plastic packaging that is not or only minimally recyclable, we are left with... OUR CHOICES.

When we make a purchase, let's look at its packaging and think about what it will become at the end of its life.


Do you now feel ready to sort your waste better?

This is a lot of information, but come back to it as needed!
Yes there is the application Where does it go? but it is not yet 100% reliable (there are several errors in it) and it lacks explanations.
If you have questions about what goes in the recycling bin, ask Tricentris instead!
Besides, there are quite a few resources on the RECYC-QUÉBEC website. Otherwise, there is always Google/ Ecosia .

By M.eve

I enjoy questioning and informing myself, and write! It's through this blog that I take the time to speak to you transparently about my business or share what I learn or observe regarding environmental topics that concern us all.


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