• Nkazi Miti

Non-Recyclable: Food Contaminated Materials


Yep. Food stained/coated materials are not recyclable.


Yes; it has a recycling triangle sign on it. Yes; it is made of ‘X Y Z’. Yes; it is commonly used for recycling.


However, should that item be covered in food, or badly stained, it will not be recycled. This is due to many reasons, among them; food coated / stained materials can cause havoc in recycling machinery. They can gum-up the equipment and cause damage to levers and general functions, causing the recycling process to fail. Also, the recycling process that takes place requires items to be as closest to their original composition as possible.


For example; when paper is received for recycling, it is first sorted by paper type and then sent to the bailing machine. When bailed, all the like paper is bundled together and transported to be recycled.

During the recycling process, the paper gets washed in chemicals that remove inks and other similar stains.


However, the food stains are not always removable and may end up contaminating the entire mixture of paper.


So what do we have to do when we have food coated/stained items?

  • Try rinsing them with your left over grey water. Rinsing a recyclable items can make a huge difference in ensuring that it gets recycled.

  • Wipe them down with used paper towels or chips packets etc. You can wipe down the excess food stains on your recyclable items using other non-recyclable items.

Doing some of these things can help ensure that we avoid sending items that could have been recycled to the landfill. So let’s continue to do our bit; check for your recycling triangle sign on all of your containers and bottles, make sure there is no bad food leftovers, stains in them and make sure it gets recycled!





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