Can I Recycle That? - Food Related Products

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
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Can I Recycle That? - Food Related Products

hands in the air recycling

Have you ever had an item in your hand and asked yourself "Can I Recycle That?" Although recycling is more commonplace today, it can feel confusing because we are inundated with so many different types of materials and packaging. Additionally, different materials might be accepted for recycling based on where you live, if you have a recycling hauler, who that hauler is, and if special recycling instructions exist for the material.

In a recent issue of DEC Delivers, we asked you to send us your recycling questions. In DEC's first edition of "Can I Recycle That?" we answer some of these frequently asked questions about correct recycling practices for food-related products. Look out for future issues with more answers to your recycling questions!

Q: Can I recycle aluminum foil?alum foil recycle

A: If it’s dry and free of food debris, aluminum foil is generally accepted in most recycling programs and can go in your regular curbside recycling bin. However, it’s best to check with your waste hauler or municipality to make sure they accept it in their recycling program. If you have small pieces of foil, collect them into a larger ball. Small pieces of any recyclable material fall through the machinery at recycling facilities and cannot be captured. If there is food debris on the foil, remove and dispose of those portions and recycle the clean pieces.

Q: Food on the Go: Can I recycle...

Plastic straws or disposable plastic utensils?

Plastic straws and disposable plastic utensils should never go in your recycling. These items are too small and fall through the cracks at recycling facilities.

Disposable coffee cups?

Disposable coffee cups should never go in your recycling because many are coated with a waterproof film.

Paper plates, takeout containers (paper, foil, plastic) and pizza boxes?

Paper plates, take-out containers (paper, foil, plastic), and pizza boxes can only be recycled if they are free of grease and food contamination. A trick here is to cut off the contaminated parts and recycle the rest if you can. If it’s too dirty, it’s best to dispose of it. As for the types of take-out containers, each one is different so check for a numerical indicator on the plastic ones and find out whether your hauler or municipality accepts materials of that type or number. And don’t forget- reduction is always best! Try keeping a reusable container on hand in your bag or car for restaurant leftovers.

Q: What about pint glasses, dishes, and ceramics?

A: Pint glasses, dishes, and ceramics should never go in with your household recycling. If you have these items and they still have a usable life, consider putting them out at a yard sale or donating them.  

Q: Do caps and lids stay on or off when I recycle bottles, jars, jugs, etc.?

A: It depends. Some facilities prefer them on, others prefer them off. It’s best to check with your hauler or municipality - usually this information is easily found on their website or is a quick phone call away.

Remember- if you find yourself asking “Is that recyclable?” and you are not sure what to do with an item, there are plenty of resources to help you answer that question. Your local municipality should have a recycling coordinator who can help, and if you have a curbside pickup service, visit your recycling hauler’s website for more information. If you have a question that wasn’t answered here, you can also e-mail us at: Stay tuned to DEC Delivers for waste reduction, recycling, and sustainability tips delivered right to your inbox.

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