Recycling Q&A: ‘I’m Still Unclear About Clear Plastic Food Containers’
- Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series of recycling Q&A tips from Kane County Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jarland. Got a question or idea for a recycling tip? Contact Jarland at 630-208-3841 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: Hi, Jennifer!
After reading the Kane County Recycles Green Guide I’m still unclear about clear hard plastic food containers. For instance, lettuce mixes, fruit and snacks.
If these containers are recyclable, is there a market for them? Or are they being crushed and sent to some remote country somewhere?
I know that pet food and bird seed bags are not recycled, which is a shame because it is such a huge industry. Are the hard plastic litter containers recyclable?
Do you know if there is an organization that is working with industry to develop alternative materials for these products? This is obviously a subject I’m very interested in.
Thanks so much for looking into this for me.
A: Hi, MJK!
Yes, fruit and lettuce boxes are recyclable! The reason that the guidelines are a little vague is because these items are on the line of recyclable or not recyclable.
Many of the recycling facilities do not want them, because they have little to no value. There is a market for mixed low-grade plastic but it isn’t great. And it is very likely offshore.
That said, you CAN put them in your bin and they will get recycled. (Read the fine print of the online guidelines and you will find them listed there, under the plastic bottles, tubs, jugs, and jars details. They are considered “Tubs.”)
Flat lids though, if separated from the container, are not recyclable as they cannot be sorted by the current technology (based on shapes) and often end up in with the paper because it is thin and flat. So, for example, the flat lettuce container lids should go in the trash, please. And the tub itself goes in the recycling.
Kitty litter containers are recyclable, yes. And if they have a screw on lid, it can also be recycled, attached to the container.
The Product Stewardship Institute works on product and packaging design. Also, there are definitely signs of movement in the direction of design for recyclability in the corporate arena. Slowly but surely.
It is up to us to shop wisely, too, and avoid the packaging if possible. I just wrote an article on that!
Thank you for all of your thinking and efforts to recycle right!
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- Recycling Q&A: Can I Recycle Boxes For Frozen Foods? (Sadly, No!)
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