If you purchase packaged snacks, I recommend you start getting familiar with the How2Recycle label. This label is showing up on more and more products. It is usually on the bottom of an item or near the barcode. It will tell you the parts of the product’s packaging and how to deal with each piece.
This particular label is from Annie’s Snack Mix. There is carboard box that can be recycled in your curbside cart or apartment collection, and once the bag is rinsed and dried, the bag can be recycled at a store plastic bag/film drop-off station.
If you can’t get all the food residue off a plastic bag, and this goes for any item intended for recycling, it’s better for the recycle stream if you trash that bag if you are unable to reuse it. Not-contaminating the recycling stream with food contaminants is better than trying to recycle all things. A better quality end product from clean bags (and items) will be more valuable than paying fines for contaminated products that will need to be sent to the landfill.
I have had products with this label that didn’t address each aspect of the package on their How2Recycle label. A How2Recycle label is a newer non-mandated system so it’s not on all products. It’s a great tool for products that are not available in bulk or homemade. I recommend that if you purchase packaged products, you choose the options that have the How2Recycle label. Vote with your dollar. If you purchase products that do not have this label and should due to the non-obvious nature of their components, it’s a great opportunity for you, your friends and family to write the companies you like and encourage them to educate their consumers and support recycling their products by including this label on their future products.
Also, don’t assume that one product type will come in the same type of packaging with all brands. For example, comparing chocolate sandwich cookies across different brands, I’ve found cookies with opaque plastic bags which are recyclable at a bag station, but most brands tend to use the silver plastic bag which is not recyclable anywhere. Some brands had plastic trays inside, some did not. So unfortunately you’ll need to take a chance, ask your networks, or try to find out from the company before you make a purchase, what their packaging entails if they have no How2Recycle label. The last option I mentioned would be a great opportunity to let a company know what is important to you and what you are looking for in their packaging and manufacturing. I personally have switched brands based solely on packaging and I’ve let the old company know why I left them and how they can change, and I’ve thanked the new company for having a greener option. You may think that these small steps won’t make a difference, but remember you and I are just starting the wave. It’s small steps, it’s being a little more green. Writing companies on this topic is also great practice for writing, taking a position, and determining what is important to you and your family, and how you see the future.
Recycling is not the answer to our waste problem. It’s not going solve all the pollution we already have, the gyres of plastic in our oceans or the microplastics in our waters and animals. What it can do it responsibly deal with what is in existence today and from the past, while we all work on creating more reusable and sustainable ways of packing, storing and shipping food and other products.