Recycling Q&A: (1) Frozen Food Boxes And (2) 'To Crush or Not To Crush' Containers

Recycling Q&A: (1) Frozen Food Boxes And (2) ‘To Crush or Not To Crush’ 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

Are you in luck!

This week’s Recycling Q&A is a double bonus — two questions and two answers — on frozen food boxes and to crush or not crush containers.

Q1: What’s The Story on Frozen Food Boxes?

Hi, Jennifer!

I thought I read somewhere that you cannot recycle cardboard boxes from frozen food, such as a box used for a frozen pizza.

Can you clarify for me? The box has a recycle symbol on it.

— ML

A1: Blame The Pregnant Paper!

Hi ML,

You are right. Frozen food boxes are not recyclable, as they are largely made from paper that has been impregnated with a type of plastic resin to protect the food from freezer burn. The paper pulping and re-manufacturing industry does not want this kind of paper in its feed stock.

Though some brands do make their frozen food boxes out of regular paper, the recycling sorting facilities, with their large volumes of material, cannot quickly identify the difference so they are all pulled off of the line and landfilled.

See this video (embedded above) for an inside look at a recycling sorting facility!

Thank you for double checking. Basic recycling is better recycling! We want to keep out the stuff that causes problems, and this is one of them.

Q2: ‘To Crush Or Not To Crush?’

Hi, Jennifer!

I have a question regarding recycling plastic bottles, soda cans and juice cartons.

I was cleaning out a drawer and found a 2016 recycle guide which said NOT to crush the cans, cartons and bottles. Is this true now or do we crush them? (I have been crushing.)

Thank you!

— SW

A2: ‘Not To Crush!’

Hi, SW!

The old recycling guide is correct: Please do not crush them!

Crushing plastic bottles, aluminum cans, or paper cartons (like the ones that juice, soup and milk come in) makes it harder (if not impossible) to sort them.

Please keep the containers as they are: uncrushed. Empty the contents entirely, rinse lightly, and replace the lid or
cap before recycling.

If you are interested in seeing how they sort single-stream (mixed paper and containers) recycling, check out that video (embedded above) that will give you an inside look at the machines they use and why ALL containers need to remain “dimensional”!

Thanks for asking!

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