Recycling Tips: How To Turn Thanksgiving Into a Zero-Waste Holiday

Recycling Tips: How To Turn Thanksgiving Into a Zero-Waste Holiday

  • Editor’s Note: This article recycling tips article was recycled from a 2019 post 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

According to experts, Americans each year throw away about 200 million pounds of turkey at Thanksgiving, and more than 150 million pounds of potatoes, green beans and other vegetable sides will never get eaten.

Unfortunately, all of that wasted food equals about half a million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

Thankfully, there are ways to reduce the negative impacts. 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.

Shop wisely! 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!

Food Scrap Composting Ideas

Food Scrap Composting— For food preparation scraps and once your leftovers start to expire, compost them, rather than landfill them.

This is a great year to start backyard composting. It is easy and has such a big impact!