Is that coffee cup compostable? Does that lid go in with the soft plastics or the containers? And what about aluminum foil? Whether you've got a recycling program in your condo, pickup from your home or you're dumping into bins on the street, you may get confused by all the recycling options you have. 

McLaughlin on Your Side decided to put some Vancouverites to the test to see if they could overcome their recycling confusion.

Along with Albert Shamess of Zero Waste Vancouver, Ross McLaughlin put together a bin of items and then found contestants for the challenge.

The City of Vancouver has a streetscape program to keep public spaces clean with trash and recyling bins.  And we wanted to see how quickly people caught on to what goes where. 

“We just stop and stare,” said one woman as she looked at the four different recycling bins.

"This I always throw in the garbage," said another woman as she held a piece of tin foil.

“That’s correct. If it’s soiled, but if it’s clean, it goes into containers,” explained Shamess.

“The cheeseburger wrapper I'll put into landfill," explained another man.

“Nope. That goes into compost,” said Shamess. A good rule of thumb is if it grew from the ground, or you could eat it, it’s also compostable – and that includes some paper products.

Most contestants got the tin cans right, putting them into the container bin.

But Starbucks and McDonalds cups caused more confusion. They may feel like paper, but because of the coating on the inside, they go into the mixed container bin.

Shamess advises people to look at the pictures on the bins to be your guide and 'when in doubt throw it out'. 

The city's progam streestscape is done in partnership with  Recycle BC  which handles residential recycling and some condo buildings and work places may hire private companies to collect recyclables which also have their own rules.  All of that can make it very confusing for people. 

"You know what? The best system in the world is to let people put all their garbage in one garbage bin, send it to one location and hire the unemployed to sort it out," suggested one participant.

But Shamess says that can contaminate the recyclables and the city wants a clean product to send out.  

"We're trying to make sure that we get clean stuff that we can accept right away and process it really easily," he explained.

And the City of Vancouver wants citizens to actively participate.

Towards the end of the excercise the participants started to catch on and to look more closely at the images on the bins for help. 

Even when you think you've got it down you may find yourself struggling. There are tools to assist. For the city's program it has has a recycling game called VanSort on its website to help you test your skills.  For residential recycling you can refer to Recycle BC's website and for a broader look at all kinds of recyclables check out  the Recycling Council of British Columbia.