Recycling Tips: What You Really SHOULD Do With Thanksgiving Leftovers

Recycling Tips: What You Really SHOULD Do With Thanksgiving Leftovers

  • Editor’s Note: This article recycling tips article was co-written by Kane County Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jarland and Ashley Broussard, former intern for the Kane County Division of Environmental & Water Resources. Got a question or idea for a recycling tip? Contact Jarland at 630-208-3841 or


Last year, about 6 million turkeys were wasted on Thanksgiving alone.

So it’s no surprise that a holiday centered around food also comes with major amounts of food waste. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be that way. With a little extra effort in planning, you can turn this Thanksgiving into a zero-waste holiday!

Shopping Tips

Plan your shopping list carefully!

Choose recipes that have similar ingredients. By limiting the amount of ingredients you need, you’re more likely to use all of the ingredients you buy.

Check your fridge and pantry before you shop. This prevents you from having an abundance of perishable ingredients.

Don’t be the host with the most! Wanting to be a good host doesn’t have to mean buying the biggest turkey or having a mountain of mashed potatoes. Check the guestimator to see how much you should buy.

Meal Time Tips

Smaller portions — Thanksgiving may be a time to indulge; however, load your plate with smaller portions and go back for seconds if you finish. This saves food for leftovers and keeps it from the landfill.

Healthy alternatives = less waste — Coincidentally healthier foods are the ones without as much packaging, for example homemade bread, fresh produce, meats from the deli rather than prepackaged on foam trays. Avoid processed foods in non-recyclable packaging.

Leftovers — What To Do

Donate unopened excess boxes or cans of food to a food pantry. Donating leftovers can be hard because many food pantries will not accept cooked items for food safety reasons. If you have excess produce that hasn’t been cooked or used, call ahead and see if they will take it.

Save room for leftovers. If you get tired of turkey sandwiches, check out Delish for Thanksgiving leftover meal ideas.

If you have too many leftovers to eat before they expire, try freezing them. Some leftovers can be frozen for almost a year!

Send some of the leftovers home with guests. If you know you’re not going to be able to eat all of the leftover food, buy reusable containers to send leftovers home with guests. College students will appreciate not having to cook a meal and so will families with little ones.

Food Scrap Composting Ideas

Food Scrap Composting— For food preparation scraps and once

your leftovers start to expire, compost them, rather than landfill them.

If you haven’t started your compost bin, pick one up at University of Illinois Extension Office, 535 S. Randall Road in St. Charles.

Kane County residents are able to buy Soil Saver backyard compost bins for the discounted price of $70.