Those Takeout Containers: Best Ways to Recycle Them

We are dwelling in a new normal. How many articles have you read in the past months that have begun with a sentence like that? This time around, however, I’m talking about the rapid, lockdown-inspired increase in ordering in and/or taking out our meals. As a result, it’s gotten to the point where our homes are generating more waste than most restaurants.

All. Those. Containers. They need to be properly recycled. Key word: properly. You can do more harm than good by not following the basic protocols. To follow is a series of steps and suggestions to bear in mind the next time you find yourself surrounded by empty plastic or tin takeout containers. As you’re about to see, it’s not as simple or as obvious as it may seem.

Regulations Vary From Location to Location

Contrary to popular belief, most plastic containers are not recyclable. Differences exist from state to state and even city to city — and these differences matter. If you place a non-recyclable container into the recycle stream, it can cause contamination. Therefore, be sure to check here to find out the regulations in your specific area.

Look For the Symbols

In general, any plastic container labeled #1 or #2 can be safely recycled. In general. When in doubt, again, consult this website. Other items that are usually safe for the recycle bin include:

  • Those paper sleeves they place on hot drinks
  • Cardboard drink carriers
  • Aluminum cans
  • Aluminum tin containers and trays
  • Most things made out of paper
  • Most things made out of glass (but no lids)

Clean Up Your Act

In the book, Fight Club, Tyler Durden complained about having clean up after everyone who helped to trash the planet. “I have to wash out and flatten my soup cans,” he moaned. Yeah, it ain’t fair but it is necessary. The lingering presence of food or liquid can contaminate other, more fragile materials (paper, cardboard, etc.). So, the first rule of Recycle Club is to rinse out all the residual food and liquid before tossing anything into the bin.

Recycle or Compost?

That now-empty pizza box is probably soaked in grease, sauce, and cheese. That means you can, at best, compost it (wherever possible). If only a portion of the box is soiled, the clean cardboard parts can still be recycled. Here are a few more items better suited for the compost heap: paper towels, paper napkins, and plant-based cutlery. P.S. Since you’re eating at home, you can pass on things like napkins and plastic forks.

The “Hard No” Category

  • Plastic bags
  • Plastic utensils
  • Condiment packages
  • Foam containers
  • Anything made out of Styrofoam
  • Paper takeout containers with that special, waterproof coating

Did I Mention Checking Your Local Guidelines?

To make the most of your recycling efforts, click here to make sure you’re on the right track. As Mr. Durden noted, recycling can feel like a chore. But once you get a feel for the do’s and don’ts, it really is one the simplest ways to do the right thing.

-Mickey Z

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash




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