Recycling Without the Blue Box

Posted January 20, 2011
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If there's one thing people are good at, it's being lazy. And if there's one thing people will go to extremes for, it's to make their lives lazier. Nothing gets people working harder than the prospect of not working at all. It's why we will spend ten minutes looking for the remote control when we could have walked over to the TV and spent ten seconds flipping channels. At least that's what we did before the manufacturers caught on to how lazy we were and stopped putting buttons on the TV at all.

I like to be lazy. I also like to recycle. It helps alleviate a little bit of the guilt I get from all the packaging I'm subjected to in my daily life.

I live in a condominium building. Calgary doesn't have blue box recycling for apartment and condominium buildings. Embarrasingly, Calgary didn't have blue boxes for houses either until a year and a half ago, but fortunately the dinosaurs opposing it eventually went extinct, more-or-less. Thank goodness for that too, as recycling has doubled in Calgary over this time, reaching 70,000 tonnes. So that's an additional 35,000 tonnes being recycled, or the weight of over 3 Calgary Towers. Success? Absolutely. So how do I, a condo-dweller, get in on the act?

Well, I did what a lot of people did (but clearly not enough people, given the blue box program's overwhelming positive impact). I packed up all my recyclables, and made the trek to the nearest city recycling depot to rid myself of bottles, shopping bags, cans and paper, occasionally making a second trip to a bottle depot for a little change. But it wasn't long before this proved to be a nearly insurmountable challenge. Like I said, I'm lazy. I yearned for a future where I would only have to carry my recyclables mere steps to be rid of them. The quest for lazier recycling led to me joining the condo board, where I successfully lobbied the members to get on board with recycling by bringing in a company to pick up our recyclables. I greatly exaggerate my claims, as what I call 'lobbying' was really about two minutes of discussion with my equally responsible-minded lazy neighbours.

Added benefits of the increased ease of recycling for our building include but aren't limited to: 

  • Increased levels of recycling from all condo units
  • Ease of recycling for not just bottles, but plastics, cans and cardboard 
  • Overfull garbages in our parking lot greatly reduced
  • No more litter strewn outside from garbage bags no longer being ripped open by bottle collectors

As for cost you say? Well our building uses Condo Recycling Solutions ( at a cost of $25 for a weekly pick up for the entire 16-unit building, translating in to a few dollars a month (exact figure depends on the proportion of condo fees your property pays). The recycling company places containers beneath our stairwell for plastics, cans and jars, cardboard and paper, bottles and cans and we put our recycling in there. No fuss, no muss.

Other providers I've heard of are:
Bluplanet Recycling (
Little Big Recycling (

calgary towers
blue boxes

So who needs blue boxes any way? While it is a great program we should roll out to all types of residential areas, we need not wait for it. My building has been running our recycling since 2007. So what are you waiting for? Instead of driving out to the depot to get your recycling done, set up a recycling program in lieu of an absent blue box for where you live. Join your condo board, lobby your landlord, talk to your neighbours, do what it takes! Then sit back, waaay back and know you're doing more AND having to do less by getting your building's recycling picked up. Help Calgary rack up more Calgary Towers worth of recycling!