When (and why) did recycling become so confusing? While it’s true the recycling movement has saved countless materials from going to a landfill, did you know some products labeled “recyclable” can’t actually be tossed into your home recycling bin? And that, to make matters worse, accidentally mixing in food scraps can deem the whole thing unusable?
With all the recycling mixed messages, how can we continue to do our part and ensure our products are actually getting recycled?
At Do Good Chicken, we eliminate waste where we can, to ultimately reduce what goes into landfills. That’s why every Do Good Chicken package has recycling instructions, thanks to our partnership with How2Recycle1 — a standardized labeling system that clearly communicates…wait for it…how to recycle.
To help you do your part when you toss Do Good Chicken in your cart, we’re covering the basics of recycling (to clarify, we mean all recycling — not just our product. Because when we all do our part, we make the world a better place).
To learn what you can (and can’t) recycle when you buy a Do Good Chicken product, check out this simple breakdown of our packaging2. Or, look directly at our label!
The Basics of Recycling
What is recycling?
Recycling refers to the process of recovering waste material — anything that would otherwise be thrown away as trash — and converting it into a reusable material or new product. While there are many different materials that can and can’t be recycled, recycling is a broad term that also includes upcycling and repurposing3.
What is upcycling?
Instead of turning waste into a new product, upcycling refers to taking a product you would otherwise throw away and giving it a new use. Turning t-shirts you no longer wear into a t-shirt quilt4 is an example of upcycling, as is repainting and flipping a bookcase on its side to use as a TV stand5. Upcycling has become more popular in recent years6, and whole social media accounts are dedicated to working upcycling magic from items found at thrift stores.
What is repurposing?
While upcycling can be achieved through adding paint or upholstery, repurposing refers to simply taking one thing and using it as something else. Using a coffee mug to hold pens and pencils or using a muffin tin7 as a drawer organizer for paper clips and push pins are examples of repurposing.
How to be a better recycler
When you recycle, you help make an impact on our planet. But how much of a difference are you really making, and how can you be sure what you diligently recycle actually gets recycled?
Did you know that approximately 25 percent of all recycling8 picked up by Waste Management (WM)9 is contaminated to the point that it is sent to landfills? Luckily, this is something we can fix at home by making ourselves a little bit smarter about what to buy, what not to buy, and how to recycle the right way. Here are some tips to ensure that we’re sending less waste to the landfill:
Tip #1: Try to buy less plastic in the first place
Over 300 million tons10 of plastic is produced every year, half of which is used to create single-use items such as shopping bags, cups, and straws. When these plastics are not recycled properly, they end up crowding landfills or littering the ocean.
Small steps can move mountains when it comes to reducing your plastic use — bring your own bags to the grocery store, bring a travel mug if you get coffee to go, and drink out of a reusable bottle. Try to reduce your takeout consumption from places that package their food in single-use plastics, and ask for no extras when you pick it up. (Better yet, hit up local farmers markets for your dinner needs!)
Pay attention to your cleaning habits, too. Buy climate-friendly hygiene and cleaning products, preferably with less plastic, or try products with refillable options. The choices are endless, from shampoo bars to metal razors to plastic-free deodorants. Once you become mindful about how much plastic you buy (and throw away), you’ll discover many ways to reduce it.
Tip #2: Educate yourself on recycling basics
Know your plastics
While some types of plastic can be widely recycled, many recycling facilities can’t recycle other types of plastic. Greenpeace recently surveyed11 367 recycling facilities across the United States and learned that PET (#1) and HDPE (#2) are the only plastics being widely recycled (despite many other types of plastic being labeled as “recyclable”).
Wishful recycling or “wishcycling” highlights good intentions12 — the idea of tossing an item into the recycling bin anyway when in doubt. However, don’t try to recycle something because you feel it should be recyclable — this may contaminate your load and turn the whole thing into trash! After all, recycling is only as good as the facilities that support it.
Keep an eye on sizes
In general, you shouldn’t recycle anything smaller than a credit card because it can jam the equipment. At the Maryland Recycling Center, these so-called “contaminants” can shut down machines 10–15 times a day13. Similarly, some municipalities ask that you call and schedule pickups for larger recyclable items that won’t fit into a bin. Check your local municipality14 for regulations about the size of items to ensure your recyclables don’t end up in the garbage.
Keep note of mixed-material items
Some containers that look recyclable contain parts that are actually not recyclable. For example, the lid to a container may be a different type of non-recyclable plastic even though the rest of it is made of PET. Some pump containers might have a small metal spring inside that could contaminate your recycling load. When possible, keep like materials together and break up bottles that have a mix.
Tip #3: When you do buy plastic, carefully take the necessary steps before tossing into recycling bin
Food waste contaminates 25 percent15 of our recycling loads, meaning that contamination continues to be a major issue in modern-day recycling. Bits of food left in your plastic takeout container? Not recyclable. Tomato sauce still coating the plastic bottle? Unfortunately, not recyclable either…and kinds of gross.
You can ensure your items get recycled by cleaning out containers before putting them into the recycling stream. Always ensure what you’re recycling is clean, empty, and dry.
Do Good Chicken is an easy way to make a difference.
When you know you can do better, you can do good.
While you’re doing your part to ensure your recycling gets recycled, we’ll continue to ensure our packaging is as recyclable as possible16 and include instructions on our packaging via How2recycle17. We’ll also continue to provide delicious chicken that’s good for plate and planet. At Do Good Chicken, what we feed our chickens — a mix made from surplus groceries after community donations — avoids approximately 3lbs of greenhouse gases and thus helps combat climate change.
By being more efficient in the production of chicken and helping to end food waste, we make real chicken with a real impact:
- Easy accessibility. We put our chicken into the grocery stores you know, love, and shop at every day, making it easy for you to make a delicious, Earth-friendly choice for you and your family.
- Sustainable packaging. Our chicken trays are made from rPET18 (otherwise known as recycled PET containers) and can be recycled19 with most municipal recycling centers.
- A plan for expansion. These aren’t just big dreams. They’re already in action. And one day, you’ll be able to find our climate-change-fighting chicken at your favorite restaurants.
What are you waiting for? Get ready to toss some chicken in your shopping cart and bake up some buffalo chicken dip. Progress is for dinner.
Find local tips on how to recycle in your municipality here. For more tips on recycling and living more sustainably, follow Do Good Chicken on Facebook and Instagram.