What to Do With All That Meal Kit Packaging

1-6-2020

So it’s 2020 and you’ve resolved to make this the year you start cooking more and eating better. You’ve signed up for your first meal kit and made some tasty dishes, but now you’re wondering what to do with all that packaging. Don’t worry — we’ve got you covered with this quick guide on how to properly dispose of all your meal kit packaging.

Paper and Cardboard

The cardboard box your meals are shipped in, cardboard dividers, paper trays and recipe cards are all made of paper. These pieces of your meal kit can be placed in the recycling. However, if these items become wet or food-soiled on their way to your house or while you’re cooking, they should be tossed in the trash.

Ice Packs

These guys do a great job of keeping your food from spoiling while it’s shipped to your home, but they also require some attention to be disposed of properly. To dispose of an ice pack, start by checking whether the ice pack is just frozen water or something else. If the ice pack contains anything other than water, thaw it, cut it open and then squeeze the gel into the garbage. Afterward, rinse out the plastic film, dry it and bring it to a plastic bag drop-off. Gel from ice packs will cause bad clogs in your drains, so make sure this gel doesn’t get washed down a sink or flushed down a toilet. If your ice pack is just filled with water, cut a corner of the pack and place it in a sink to thaw. After the water has melted and drained, dry the empty pack and drop it off with other plastic bags.

If you aren’t going to take the plastic film to a drop-off, you can toss your ice pack in the garbage.

Or, better yet, reuse your ice pack! Stick the ice pack back in your freezer, and then toss it in a cooler to chill drinks or food whenever you’re camping, tailgating or hosting. That way you won’t have to buy as many bags of ice at the store.

Plastic Bags

Often containing vegetables, spices and sauces, these bags should be dropped off with other plastic bags once they are clean and dry or tossed in the garbage.

Plastic Clamshells, Jars and Bottles

This is where things can get a bit tricky. Luckily, most, if not all, the plastic containers in your meal kit will be clearly labeled with a plastic resin number to help you identify the type of plastic. From there you can use our Recycling Guide to find out how you should dispose of each type of plastic. Keep in mind, items smaller than the lid on a standard peanut butter jar are too small to recycle and must be put in the trash. Have some plastic that’s not recyclable? Upcycle it! Check out this video by Purple Carrot for some fun ideas.

Food Scraps

Cooking at home creates food scraps. If you are composting at home, toss in your potato peels, scallion ends and other food scraps. If not, these items can go in the garbage. When composting in your backyard, remember to avoid putting dairy products, meat, or fats and oils into the compost.

Find something in your meal kit that isn’t mentioned here? Look it up in our handy Recycling Guide.

Food for Thought

Feel like you’re finally getting the hang of cooking at home? Save those recipe cards, or find some new recipes on the web, and try cooking without the meal kit. Plan out your meals ahead of time to minimize food waste and remember to bring your reusable bags and produce bags to the store. Bon appétit!

New Phone? Don’t Bury the Old One in a Junk Drawer — Here’s Why

12-30-2019

Getting a new phone over the holidays? Remember to recycle your old one! It’s easy — in California, stores that sell cell phones are required to take them back for recycling. Oftentimes they’ll even give you credit towards a new device.

If you’re keeping old phones and tablets in a “junk drawer of sadness,” get those precious metals back into action! Phones contain gold, silver, copper, platinum and palladium — valuable materials that manufacturers want to reuse.

While it’s great to give your old phone a new life, never put one in your garbage or curbside recycling. Why? The lithium ion batteries can cause terrible fires in waste trucks and sorting facilities.

Find ways to recycle, donate or sell your old phone in our Recycling Guide. Find out more about why they’re so important to recycle by watching this video.

How to Dispose of Amazon Packaging

amazon packaging

12-9-2019

With the holidays around the corner, package deliveries are ramping up around the country. According to one set of numbers, during last year’s holiday rush, deliveries in the U.S. nearly doubled from an average of 45 million to 95 million packages per day.

Even without the holiday surge, online shopping generates massive amounts of packaging waste. It isn’t just cardboard anymore — over the past couple of years, Amazon has increased its reliance on lightweight plastic mailers. About half of all e-commerce transactions take place through Amazon, so how Amazon chooses to ship its products has a big impact on what ends up in our landfills.

The new plastic mailers take up less space than bulky boxes, which allows Amazon to pack more of them into delivery trucks and planes. However, plastic mailers can’t be recycled as easily as cardboard. Like plastic bags, the plastic mailers tangle up sorting machinery at recycling facilities, causing expensive delays.

How can you recycle Amazon mailers?

If the mailer is plastic on the outside with a layer bubble wrap on the inside, or if it is flexible plastic (like a plastic bag) with no layer of bubble wrap: Bring it to a plastic bag drop-off. Just remove the paper label first, since the paper and adhesive can contaminate the plastic film recycling. If you aren’t going to take it to a drop-off, toss it in the garbage.

If the mailer is paper on the outside with bubble wrap on the inside: Because it’s made of mixed materials, it can’t be recycled at all. Reuse it or toss it in the garbage.

How does plastic bag recycling drop-off work?

Certain big box stores and supermarkets put out bins for plastic bag collection near the front of their stores. Once collected, all of the plastic film is melted down and turned into materials such as composite lumber, which is used to make decks, playgrounds and park benches.

Ready to recycle those plastic mailers? Find your closest drop-off location.

Are You Wishcycling?

11-25-2019

While recycling may be the right thing to do, recycling the wrong things is not.

“Aspirational recycling” or “wishcycling” is the act of tossing things in the recycling that you hope are recyclable. Not only is this common, it’s a big problem! Even small amounts of contamination can turn entire loads of recyclable materials into trash.

Check out this video to learn more, and when in doubt, throw it out! Or look it up in our Recycling Guide.

10 Ways to Cut Pounds — of Waste! — This Thanksgiving

thanksgiving-pie

11-18-2019

Thanksgiving is around the corner, and we all know how labor-intensive preparing the big meal can be. But we’re not always aware of how much extra waste we create!

On average, household waste increases by 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, according to the EPA. We become so busy during the holidays, it can easily become a time to think less and waste more.

This Thanksgiving, try out these tips to keep some of those extra pounds of waste out of the landfill.

1. Remember to bring your reusable bags when grocery shopping, including reusable produce bags.

2. Choose products that have minimal packaging, or packaging that can be recycled. It’s easier to avoid waste by shopping from fresh produce sections, bulk bins and farmer’s markets. Also, food cans are more eco-friendly than plastic packaging, but they aren’t as green as fresh produce brought home in a reusable produce bag.

3. At home, skip the aluminum pan and use a roasting pan instead. Even though aluminum trays are recyclable, recycling requires a lot of resources, so a reusable pan is a greener choice.

4. Break out your reusable dishes and silverware for the holiday instead of using disposable plates.

5. Use cloth napkins instead of paper napkins — you’ll add elegance and reduce waste at the same time.

6. When serving beverages, opt for tap water over bottled water — you can add some lemon or cucumber slices to jazz it up. You can also make holiday beverages like apple cider, spiced wine or sangria in bulk, instead of serving individual beverage containers.

7. Avoid plastic wrap when storing leftovers by using food storage containers instead.

8. Use natural objects such as gourds, cinnamon sticks, acorns and pinecones to brighten your space instead of shopping for store-bought decor. If you’re feeling crafty, here are some additional ideas from Pinterest:

9. If you’re planning some crafts for the kiddos in your family, recruit them to help make upcycled holiday decor by cutting shapes out of old newspaper, wrapping paper or construction paper.

10. Remember to recycle! If you’re not sure if something belongs in your recycling, just look it up in our Recycling Guide!

As important as it is to reduce waste and recycle, no matter how you choose to celebrate, remember to be thankful for who you’re with and all that you have.

Happy Thanksgiving!

What Does the Recycling Symbol Mean, Anyway?

recycling symbols

11-11-2019

Everyone knows the recycling symbol. It looks like three arrows chasing each other in the shape of a triangle, and it seems to turn up everywhere these days.

But did you know the recycling symbol doesn’t mean an item is always recyclable? In fact, there are many kinds of recycling symbols, and a lot of them don’t mean “recyclable” at all.

This is a problem because usually, when people see one of these recycling symbols, they automatically think, “I can recycle this!” and toss the item into the recycling. But the chasing arrows don’t always mean something is recyclable, and recycling the wrong items causes contamination in our recycling stream. Contamination reduces how much of our materials actually get recycled, and it makes recycling more expensive.

In honor of America Recycles Day, we’re going to debunk the meaning behind the recycling symbol. So let’s take a closer look at what all these recycling symbols really mean:


recycling symbol

1. Recyclable (Sometimes, Some Places)

Meaning #1: An item with this symbol on it is recyclable somewhere. This doesn’t mean an item is recyclable in San José!
Recycling programs all have different sorting systems and different technologies available to them. Because of all these differences, there are virtually no recycling rules that are true across the state or the country.

The manufacturers that use this symbol on their products have no way of knowing what the rules are in every community. They just know whether it’s technically possible to recycle something or not. A lot of times, it is! But that doesn’t mean we can recycle it in San José.

How can you find out whether or not something is recyclable here? Look up the item in our Recycling Guide.

Meaning #2: This item was made from recycled materials.
In this use of the recycling symbol, you might see a number in the middle that has the percentage of recycled materials used to make it. It might also say “Made from recycled materials.” This doesn’t mean the item is recyclable! Items made from recycled materials are sometimes recyclable, sometimes not. You can find out whether we can recycle it in San José by looking it up in our Recycling Guide.


recyclable symbol

2. Made From Recycled Materials

The recycling symbol over a dark circle means that the item was made from recycled materials.

Even though it looks like the recyclable symbol, many products with this symbol cannot be recycled. For example, this symbol appears on a lot of recycled paper products, but paper can only be recycled so many times. Items such as napkins and paper towels are end-of-use products, meaning it’s the end of the recycling road for them. Their super-short paper fibers can’t be recycled anymore, so you need to throw them away. Cardboard, however, can still be recycled again, so you can put that in your recycling cart.


plastic resin code

3. Plastic Resin Code, or Type of Plastic

This symbol doesn’t stand for recycling at all — it’s a manufacturing code that stands for the type of plastic an item is made from. Items with this symbol are not necessarily recyclable!

In San José, we’re lucky to be able to recycle all rigid plastics #1-#7, so if you see any of these numbers appear in the resin code, you can usually put that item in your recycling. Some exceptions to this rule are foam plastic #6 and compostable plastics, which are sometimes labeled as plastic #7 or PLA.


how to recycle

4. The How2Recycle Label

The How2Recycle label is a series of recycling symbols created by an organization called the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. This label is becoming more common, and it’s carefully regulated to provide you with information that’s as accurate as possible, given all the differences between local recycling programs.

The How2Recycle label will tell you if an item is recyclable widely, in limited areas, not at all, or if it needs to be dropped off at a store. However, by their definitions, “widely recyclable” can mean only 60% of U.S. households, so you should check San José’s Recycling Guide no matter what.

If an item has multiple pieces, the How2Recycle label will tell you what material each piece is made from and which parts can be recycled. If you need to prepare the item for recycling, it will tell you how. To see an example, check out the instructions on the frozen food package below.

how to recycle


BPI logo

5. Compostable (But Not in Your Backyard)

OK, so this isn’t technically a recycling symbol, but we still wanted to include it in this list! This symbol means the item is compostable in a commercial composting facility. However, not all commercial composting facilities accept all materials. In San José, toss BPI-certified materials in the trash.

Additionally, do not try to compost items with this symbol at home unless the label says you can. Most of these items require high amounts of heat and pressure to break down, so they will never break down in a backyard compost.

Please note: Compostable items are not recyclable! If something can be composted, that means it can break down into tiny pieces that can be digested by little critters such as worms and bacteria and recomposed into new organic material: soil! Recycling is a very different process.

Toss Those Halloween Candy Wrappers

halloween candy

10-21-2019

Halloween is fast approaching, and as you work your way through the never-ending supply of candy, remember that candy wrappers are not recyclable. They need to be thrown in the trash.

Candy wrappers can’t be recycled because they are made of a mix of materials — often a combination of paper, plastic and aluminum — that are difficult and expensive to separate.

However, if you’re organizing a big halloween party, and there’s going to be a ton of candy, consider ordering a TerraCycle Candy and Snack Wrappers Zero Waste Box. This way the wrappers can be mailed in to be recycled through TerraCycle’s special program.

Food Scraps Don’t Belong in the Recycling

dirty food containers

10-7-2019

Is your jar half-full of salsa? Does your can still have food in it? Don’t toss them in the recycling! Food scraps contaminate the recycling process.

When food scraps get into your recycling, they make recyclables less clean and less valuable. Food can get stuck in sorting equipment, forcing workers to stop the sorting line to clean it up. Food can also seep into paper products, making the fibers too weak to be recycled — liquids, sticky residue and leftover grease, especially.

Long story short: A batch of food-contaminated recycling can quickly end up in the landfill.

What can you do? Empty and scrape out any containers that once held food.

It’s Time to Upgrade Your Tailgating Cup

solo cups

9-30-2019

No one can deny that the red Solo cup is a cultural icon: it makes us think of tailgating, BBQs, college parties and more recently, Toby Keith’s hugely popular song. When you fill one up this season, remember that the rigid plastic #6 cup is recyclable in our curbside program.

If thrown away, it doesn’t take a quick 14 years for a plastic cup to decompose, as Keith’s lyrics suggest. Estimates range closer to 450 years. That’s a long time, especially if you consider that, according to EarthDay.org, 500 billion disposable cups are consumed every year. They’re one of the contributors to the 8 million metric tons of plastic that pours into our oceans every year. Plastic is a problem that isn’t going away on its own.

Even better than recycling your cups is switching to reusable! If you’re not in charge of party planning, just BYO reusable cup! Reusable plastic or aluminum work well — you can use a spare thermos, water bottle or even a glass mason jar.

If you’re party planning and want traditional red cups, you’ll find through an internet search that reusable versions are available. Another option: the University of Colorado Boulder just released reusable aluminum cups for their new football season.

If you’re stuck on single-use cups, stick to plastics that are recyclable. Avoid plastic cups labeled “compostable” or “biodegradable” — these plastics are not recyclable, and recyclable plastic is better for the environment.

That said, if your tailgating party just won’t be the same without the classic Solo cups, reuse them as much as you can, and then remember to recycle them.

6 Ways to Cut Back on Food Waste for Climate Week

food in fridge

9-23-2019

September 23-29 is Climate Week NYC, a series of events run in coordination with the UN and the City of New York that showcase actions people are taking around the world to reduce our impact on the climate and foster discussion on how we can do more.

Want to Take Action?

If you want to join the effort to take action on climate, food waste is a great place to start. In the U.S., 40% of food goes to waste, which accounts for 16% of our total methane emissions. Methane is a harmful greenhouse gas that has more than 25 times the environmental impact that carbon dioxide has.

We can lower our methane emissions and reduce our climate impact by cutting back on food waste.

How to Reduce Your Food Waste

Try out these 6 tips to put a dent in how much food you waste:

1. Shop smart. Only buy what you know you’ll use. Create a meal plan for the week and build a shopping list around that meal plan. Try using this meal planner from Eureka Recycling, or the EPA’s smart shopping list (PDF).

2. Store food strategically. Fasten a produce storage guide to your fridge door, such as this one from the EPA (PDF), so you know which foods keep best inside or outside the fridge.

Also, learn about where food should be stored within your fridge. Your shelves, drawers and doors are designed to hold different types of foods. Check out the NRDC’s Refrigerator Demystified infographic (PDF).

3. Eat food strategically. All produce has a varying shelf life. Try labeling your food to remind yourself which items need to be eaten first (these PDF signs from the EPA are handy), and freeze food that’s about to go bad so you can use it in the future.

Still having trouble eating food in time? Try the USDA’s FoodKeeper application for Apple and Android devices. The app provides expert-backed advice for storing and eating more than 400 foods and drinks, and can give you reminders to use items before they go bad.

4. Prepare food in advance. When you get home from the store, rinse and chop your produce so that snacking and meal prep is easier during the week. That way you’ll be more likely to follow through on making the meals you shopped for.

5. In California, best-by dates indicate freshness, not safety. Use-by dates indicate food safety. That means you can still eat food after its best-by date, but not after its use-by date. To learn more about how long you can keep food, visit StillTasty.com or EatByDate.com.

6. Have a fridge full of random items? Use an online tool to help you find recipes for them, such as Supercook or MyFridgeFood.