What's in Calgary's black carts?

In 2019 we did a study to see what Calgary households were throwing away in their black carts. The results help us understand how well Calgary’s waste programs are working and where we can improve.

The study looked at random samples of trash to find what is in Calgary’s black carts. The results showed that Calgarians have made huge strides over the past ten years, with a 50% decrease in the amount of black cart waste going to landfill. The most dramatic change since our previous study is the reduction in the amount of yard waste disposed as garbage, from 29% in 2014 to 3% in 2019.

For single-family homes in Calgary, the average black cart is made up of the following:


  • 16% Blue Cart recyclables such as paper, cardboard, tin cans and plastic containers. These items belong in the blue cart.
  • 11% Other recyclable items such as clothing, paint or electronics that can be recycled through a drop-off program, or reusable items that can be donated. Visit What Goes Where to learn where these items belong.


  • 30% Food waste including scraps, moldy food and food still in packaging. These items can be composted and belong in the green cart. Food needs to be removed from packaging before being put in the green cart.
  • 12% Other compostable items including food-soiled paper towels and pet waste. When prepared properly, these items belong in the green cart. Pet waste needs to be put in a compostable bag or paper bag and tied/rolled closed.
  • 3% Yard waste. Calgarians have fully embraced the Green Cart program for managing their yard waste such as leaves and grass clippings. There is very little compostable yard waste still being put in the black cart.


  • 28% Landfill items, such as foam packaging, chip bags and diapers that can’t be recycled, composted or diverted at this time. These items belong in the black cart as garbage.

Calgarians now recycle and compost more waste at home through the Blue and Green Cart programs than they send to landfill in their black carts. While Calgarians are doing a great job, we have the opportunity to keep even more materials out of the garbage. Continuing to use your carts properly will help you recycle and compost more. If in doubt, check out What Goes Where to help you keep the right items out of your black cart and put the right items in your blue and green carts.

Learn more about the Blue Cart program and Green Cart program. Find education resources at Waste & Recycling Educator Resources.

Our waste diversion goal

We are moving Calgary toward diverting 70% of waste from our City landfills by 2025.

Waste Composition