What Food Containers Are Recyclable?

What Food Containers Are Recyclable

Recycling food containers is crucial for several reasons. Firstly, it helps reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills, which in turn minimizes environmental pollution and the release of harmful greenhouse gases. Secondly, recycling conserves valuable resources by allowing the materials in food containers to be reused in the production of new items, reducing the need for raw materials extraction.

Now, let’s dive into the types of food containers that can typically be recycled:

  1. Plastic Containers: Many plastic food containers are recyclable, and they are usually labeled with a recycling symbol and a number indicating the type of plastic. Common recyclable plastics include PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) and HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene).
  2. Glass Jars and Bottles: Glass is highly recyclable, and recycling it saves energy compared to producing new glass. Clear, green, and brown glass containers are often accepted in recycling programs.
  3. Metal Cans: Aluminum and steel cans used for food packaging are widely recyclable. Recycling metals significantly reduces energy consumption compared to extracting and processing raw materials.
  4. Cardboard and Paper Packaging: Cardboard food boxes and paper-based packaging, such as cereal boxes, are recyclable. It’s important to remove any food residues and flatten these items before recycling.

Remember, proper sorting and cleaning of containers before recycling contribute to the effectiveness of the recycling process. By recycling food containers, we actively contribute to a more sustainable and eco-friendly future.

Plastic Containers

Let’s break down the different types of plastic food containers, identify recyclable codes, and discuss proper recycling tips:

  1. PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) – #1: PET is commonly used for water and soda bottles, as well as food packaging for items like salad dressing, peanut butter, and condiments. It’s widely recyclable.
  2. HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene) – #2: HDPE is used for milk jugs, detergent bottles, and some food containers like yogurt and margarine tubs. It’s highly recyclable.
  3. PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) – #3: PVC is less common in food packaging but may be found in cling wraps and some containers. It’s not as widely accepted in recycling programs.
  4. LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene) – #4: LDPE is used for squeezable bottles, shopping bags, and some food packaging. It’s recyclable but might not be accepted everywhere.
  5. PP (Polypropylene) – #5: PP is found in containers for yogurt, syrup, and medicine bottles. It’s generally recyclable.
  6. PS (Polystyrene) – #6: PS is used in foam packaging and disposable utensils. It’s less commonly recycled due to challenges in processing.
  7. Other Plastics – #7: This category includes various plastics, and some may not be easily recyclable. It’s essential to check with local recycling facilities.

Now, here are some tips on how to properly recycle plastic food containers:

  1. Check the Recycling Code: Look for the recycling symbol and the number inside it on the bottom of the container. This code indicates the type of plastic.
  2. Clean Containers: Rinse containers thoroughly to remove any food residue. Clean items have a higher chance of being accepted in recycling programs.
  3. Remove Lids and Labels: Remove non-plastic elements like lids and labels, as they might be made of different materials.
  4. Sort by Type: Group plastic containers by their recycling codes to make it easier for recycling facilities to process.
  5. Follow Local Guidelines: Different areas may have specific guidelines on what plastics they accept. Check with local recycling programs to understand their requirements.
  6. Avoid Contaminants: Do not recycle plastic containers that contained hazardous materials or chemicals, as they can contaminate the recycling stream.

By following these guidelines, you can contribute to a more effective and sustainable plastic recycling process.

Glass Jars and Bottles

Glass jars and bottles come in various types, each serving specific purposes. Let’s break down some common types and discuss their recyclability:

  1. Clear Glass: Clear glass is the most common type and is widely used for products like beverages and some food items. It’s easily recyclable and often accepted in recycling programs.
  2. Colored Glass: Glass containers can be tinted in different colors for aesthetic or functional reasons. Brown, green, and blue glass fall into this category. These colored glasses are also recyclable, but the recycling process may vary slightly based on color. Check with local recycling guidelines for specific instructions.
  3. Flint Glass: This is a high-quality, colorless glass often used for premium products like certain food and beverage packaging. It’s generally recyclable like clear glass.
  4. Amber Glass: This type of glass has a distinctive amber or brown color and is commonly used for storing light-sensitive products like beer or certain pharmaceuticals. Amber glass is recyclable, but again, check local recycling guidelines for specific instructions.
  5. Recycled Glass: Some glass containers are made from recycled glass, contributing to sustainability efforts. These are recyclable as well and play a role in the closed-loop recycling system.

Tips on Properly Recycling Glass Jars and Bottles:

  1. Clean Thoroughly: Rinse out glass containers to remove any food residue before recycling. This ensures a cleaner and more efficient recycling process.
  2. Remove Caps and Lids: Before recycling, it’s advisable to remove any caps, lids, or other non-glass components. Metal lids and caps can often be recycled separately.
  3. Check Local Guidelines: Recycling programs can vary by location, so it’s crucial to check your local guidelines. Some places may have specific instructions for handling colored glass or may not accept certain types of glass.
  4. Avoid Broken Glass: Broken glass poses safety risks to recycling facility workers. If a glass container breaks, it’s best to dispose of it in the regular trash.
  5. Separate by Color (if required): In some areas, recycling programs may request that you separate glass by color. Follow these guidelines to ensure proper recycling.

By following these tips and being mindful of local recycling guidelines, you can contribute to the efficient recycling of glass jars and bottles, promoting a more sustainable and eco-friendly waste management system.

Metal Cans

What Food Containers Are Recyclable?

Metal cans come in various types, each designed for specific purposes. The most common types of metal cans are made from aluminum or steel. Here’s an overview of different metal cans and tips on recycling them:

  1. Aluminum Cans:
    • Common Uses: Beverage cans (soda, beer), food containers.
    • Characteristics: Lightweight, corrosion-resistant.
    • Recyclability: Highly recyclable. Aluminum can be recycled indefinitely without losing its quality.
    • Identification: Typically labeled with the recycling symbol and the term “aluminum.”
  2. Steel Cans:
    • Common Uses: Food cans (vegetables, soup), aerosol cans.
    • Characteristics: Durable, strong, magnetic.
    • Recyclability: Steel is highly recyclable, but the recycling process for steel involves more energy compared to aluminum.
    • Identification: Often labeled with recycling symbols and the term “steel” or “tinplate.”
  3. Bi-Metal Cans:
    • Common Uses: Some food and beverage cans that have steel exteriors and aluminum interiors.
    • Characteristics: Combine the strength of steel with the lightweight nature of aluminum.
    • Recyclability: Many recycling programs accept bi-metal cans, but facilities must be equipped to separate the aluminum and steel components during processing.

Tips on Properly Recycling Metal Cans:

  1. Clean and Empty: Before recycling, ensure that metal cans are empty and free from any food or liquid residues. Rinse them if necessary to prevent contamination in the recycling stream.
  2. Remove Caps and Lids: Take off any caps or lids from metal cans before recycling. These may be made of different materials, and separating them helps the recycling process.
  3. Flatten if Possible: Flattening metal cans saves space in recycling bins and helps optimize transportation efficiency. However, don’t flatten aerosol cans, as they may still contain pressurized gases.
  4. Check Local Recycling Guidelines: Recycling programs can vary by location, so it’s essential to check with your local recycling facility or municipality to understand specific guidelines and whether they accept certain types of metal cans.
  5. Use Recycling Bins: Place metal cans in designated recycling bins. If your area has a curbside recycling program, follow the guidelines provided by your waste management service.

By following these tips and being mindful of the types of metal cans you’re recycling, you contribute to the efficient recycling of valuable materials and reduce the environmental impact associated with metal production.

Cardboard and Paper Packaging

Let’s break down the world of cardboard and paper packaging:

  1. Types of Cardboard and Paper Packaging:
    • Corrugated Cardboard: This type of cardboard has a wavy inner layer, providing strength and durability. It’s commonly used for shipping boxes and packaging materials.
    • Paperboard or Chipboard: This is a single-layered, rigid paperboard often used for items like cereal boxes, shoeboxes, and some food packaging.
    • Kraft Paper: A strong brown paper commonly used in grocery bags and some packaging materials.
    • Boxboard: This includes various types of paperboard used for items like cosmetic boxes, pharmaceutical packaging, and other consumer goods.
  2. Recyclability of Cardboard and Paper Packaging:
    • Corrugated Cardboard: Highly recyclable. The corrugation process makes it valuable for recycling into new cardboard products.
    • Paperboard or Chipboard: Generally recyclable, especially if not contaminated with food residues. Check with local recycling guidelines.
    • Kraft Paper: Recyclable, and its fibers can be reused to create new paper products.
    • Boxboard: Often recyclable, but it depends on coatings or additives. Check local recycling guidelines for specifics.
  3. Tips on Properly Recycling Cardboard and Paper Packaging:
    • Cleanliness is Key: Before recycling, remove any food residues or contaminants. Clean, dry cardboard and paper are more likely to be accepted for recycling.
    • Flatten Boxes: Flatten corrugated cardboard boxes to save space and make handling more efficient for recycling facilities.
    • Separate Materials: If your packaging includes plastic windows or metal components, try to remove them before recycling. Some recycling facilities may not accept mixed materials.
    • Check Local Guidelines: Recycling programs vary, so it’s essential to be aware of local guidelines. Some areas may have specific rules regarding the types of cardboard and paper they accept.
    • Avoid Wax-Coated Paper: Some food packaging, like certain takeout containers or milk cartons, may have a wax coating that hinders recyclability. Check local guidelines or discard such items appropriately.

By following these tips and understanding the different types of cardboard and paper packaging, you contribute to more effective recycling practices and help reduce environmental impact.

Tips for Recycling Food Containers

Let’s dive into some tips for recycling food containers:

  • Clean Thoroughly: Before recycling, make sure to rinse or clean food containers to remove any leftover food or residues. Containers with food remnants can contaminate recycling loads.
  • Check for Recycling Symbols: Look for recycling symbols and codes on the containers. These symbols indicate the type of material used and are crucial for sorting at recycling facilities.
  • Separate Materials: If a food container is composed of multiple materials (e.g., a plastic container with a metal lid), consider separating them before recycling. Some facilities may have challenges processing mixed-material items.
  • Remove Labels: Remove any paper or plastic labels from containers. Labels can be made from different materials and may not be recyclable along with the container.
  • Crush or Flatten Containers: Flattening plastic bottles or aluminum cans and crushing cardboard boxes can save space in recycling bins and make transportation more efficient.
  • Know Local Guidelines: Different recycling programs have varying rules and guidelines. Familiarize yourself with your local recycling guidelines to ensure you’re following the correct procedures.
  • Avoid Contaminated Containers: Containers contaminated with food waste, oil, or other non-recyclables can compromise the entire recycling batch. Discard heavily soiled containers appropriately.
  • Check for Special Instructions: Some items, like pizza boxes, may have specific recycling instructions. In the case of pizza boxes, remove any greasy or cheesy sections before recycling.
  • Reuse if Possible: Consider reusing containers for storage or other purposes before recycling them. Extending the life of a container is an eco-friendly option.
  • Educate Others: Spread awareness about proper recycling practices among your friends, family, and community. Knowledge-sharing contributes to a collective effort for better recycling habits.

Remember, the success of recycling efforts relies on individual actions. By following these tips, you contribute to a cleaner, more sustainable environment.


  1. Can all food containers be recycled?
    • No, not all food containers are recyclable. It depends on the material they are made of.
  2. What types of food containers are generally recyclable?
    • Typically, containers made of materials like glass, metal, and certain plastics (check for recycling codes) are recyclable.
  3. Are paper food containers recyclable?
    • Yes, many paper food containers are recyclable. However, it’s important to check for any plastic or wax coating, as this can affect recyclability.
  4. Can I recycle plastic food containers with a recycling code?
    • It depends on the recycling guidelines in your area. Some plastics are recyclable, but not all, so it’s essential to follow local regulations.
  5. Do I need to clean food containers before recycling them?
    • Yes, it’s recommended to rinse or clean food containers before recycling to avoid contamination and ensure better recycling efficiency.