Over the past few months, our daily routine has changed since more of us are working from home due to COVID-19. You’re likely cooking more often, or if you’re anything like us, guilty of snacking throughout the day. But how do you dispose of the packaging your food comes in?
During this time, many restaurants have also been struggling and have adapted their menus and services for take-out and delivery. To show support for these local Canadian restaurants, #TakeoutWednesday has become a national effort to order takeout en-masse.
Consequently, there’s been a greater demand for food grade packaging.
In order to meet the industry-wide demand, we determined the most common food grade packaging sizes and developed a full container catalogue. Through our research, it became obvious that packaging for take-out meals definitely varies between restaurants.
Although most takeout containers are recyclable, we believe it’s important to inform you on how to properly dispose them as we did for regular packaging products in our previous blog post. If disposal is done incorrectly, it can damage equipment, ruin otherwise perfectly good recyclables and cost your city millions annually.
We put together this list of commonly-used packaging products to help you when it comes to disposing of your containers!
Plastic Clamshell Containers
Clamshell containers are recyclable, but may take longer to process if there are a lot of stickers or adhesives present. This is because it requires recycling facilities to use an extended wash process to remove the adhesives,
Hard Plastic Containers
These are fairly easy to recycle, you just need to rinse the containers before disposal. Both the lid and container are recyclable, however if it’s black plastic, you need to throw it into the garbage. Many recycling facilities are unable to detect them due to their colour even though the container has a recycling symbol. in turn, these containers end up contaminating the recycling bins.
Although black plastic containers are not technically recyclable, they are definitely up-cyclable! Consider forgoing the purchase of plastic Tupperware and instead use these sturdy containers to store leftovers or snacks. We even know some people that use them for dog food in a pinch.
Styrofoam is a very popular packaging material, but you should avoid putting them into your recycling bin. You can rinse it all you like, but because the material is vey soft and lightweight, it breaks and crumbles easily. This makes it difficult to separate from other recyclables. As a result, it causes contamination and affects the recyclability of the rest of your blue box. Instead, you can take them directly to a recycling depot!
Pizza boxes are made from corrugated cardboard, which is a 100% recyclable material. Nonetheless, they cannot have any significant amount of cheese or sauce stuck to them, nor be heavily soiled with grease! A few grease spots are still acceptable, but if they are on the majority of the box then you should place it in your green bin instead.
Kraft paper bags are 100% recyclable as they produce a natural finish. In the case that the bags are soiled with food, liquids, or come with a laminated finishing, you must throw them into the garbage bin!
Disposal Tip: Before you toss the bags into the blue bin, don’t forget to remove any handles that aren’t made of paper! This includes plastic, ribbon or string materials (twisted paper handles are fine).
Foil Wrap and Containers
Foil wraps and containers are also recyclable. Before you dispose them, remove any stuck-on food and rinse the containers well. In some cases, the foil containers come with the foil-lined paper lid. You cannot recycle these lids because of their material mix.
Paper cups, plastic lids, and sleeves are all 100% recyclable. In the case of hot drinking cups, some might come with an additional coating which may not necessarily be accepted by your local recycling facility. In this case you can always contact and confirm with them before disposing the cups.
Paper wrappers, in theory, are recyclable as long as they are not soiled, but when was the last time you saw a cheeseburger wrapper that wasn’t stained with cheese and grease? The best way to dispose of paper wrappers is by throwing them into the garbage!
Last, but certainly not least, Kraft paper containers are a very popular alternative to plastic and are 100% recyclable! They must be squeaky clean before you dispose them.
However, many paper containers come with a wax coating, which actually is a form of polyethylene (PE) plastic. Containers that are coated with wax, are no longer recyclable. This does not mean that wax coatings are bad. Wax coatings act as a moisture and gas barrier to maintain the quality and freshness of the food.
So why can’t wax coated containers be recycled? To breakdown and recycle paper, it is mixed with water in a giant blender called a hydro-pulper. The hydropulper processes the paper into a slurry suitable for making recycled paper products. If the paper has a wax coating, it is impossible to recycle in the standard pulp process because the container will not break apart and blend in with the slurry during recycling.
In some cases, the Kraft paper containers may just be shiny and not actually coated with wax. Shiny containers are still recyclable!
So how do you tell the two apart? To identify if there is any wax coating, you can do the quick and easy scratch test.
- Scratch Test: Scratch the container and if you notice the wax starts to come off, dispose the container in the garbage can!
An alternative finishing you may consider is an oil varnish. Never heard of it in terms of packaging? Make sure to contact us to find out more!
Contact Your Local Recycling Facility
Your commitment to proper disposal practices make a huge difference! it’s important to note that although food grade packaging may come with the recycling symbol, they might not be accepted by your local recycling facility. As a result, it’s really important you contact them with your questions and familiarize yourself with their websites! A lot of the sites offer waste sorting guides which you can follow to reduce disposal errors!
Overall, together we can recycle correctly if we continue to stay informed about proper waste management!