How to Recycle Packaging: Food Edition!

posted 10/18/2017

The culture of meal prep services is evolving and becoming easier and more popular. But with this convenience comes recycling confusion! Let Metro Waste Authority help answer any questions you might have when it comes to recycling packaging material in Polk County.

First let’s look at what’s inside a typical package of delivered food. It will probably include the following:

  • A cardboard box
  • Insulation
  • Ice packs
  • Cardboard separators
  • Paper and plastic bags


Cardboard boxes and cardboard separators are easy; toss those in the Curb It! recycling cart. Insulation and paper/plastic bags are trickier. If the insulation is made from cardboard without metallic covering, toss it in your Curb It! cart, but if the insulation is made from plastic, felted fleece, or Styrofoam, it needs to go in the garbage. Paper bags go in the Curb It! cart, but plastic bags need to go back to the grocery store to be recycled. This leaves ice packs. If you don’t want to reuse them, check to see if the material inside the bag is biodegradable. If it is, open the bag and flush the contents down the toilet, then add the plastic bag in with the rest to be returned to the grocery store.


If you want to go the extra mile, tear the metallic covering off cardboard insulators and toss them in your Curb It! cart. Also, check with local animal shelters and see if they would like the felted insulation. It makes great cat beds!