7 Everyday Items That Are Bound for Landfills

  1. Planter’s Nut Containers
  2. Keurig’s K-Cups
  3. Plastic Grocery Bags
  4. Yogurt & Hummus Containers
  5. Paper Cups
  6. Aluminum Cans
  7. Styrofoam

Do you remember when you learned as a kid that there wasn’t actually a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow? Life is full of all kinds of discoveries that take the air out of our balloon and give us a reality check.

One of life’s greatest “reality check” moments is when we discover that some of our most favorite household products do a number on the environment. However, a reality check every now and then is never a bad thing!

While there is a ton of products out there that impact the environment, there are a few that are more commonly-used than others.

1. Planter’s Nut Containers

Not Recyclable!

You might be wondering, “are peanut cans recyclable?” The answer is no! Each component of the can (the metal container and the paper packaging) is recyclable when you dispose of them separately. But together, they are not recyclable.

Experts recommend repurposing the containers instead of simply tossing them in the recycle. You can reuse the cans in the office for holding paperclips, pushpins, or even rubber bands. Sometimes it just takes a little creativity to prevent the landfills from filling up with items that could easily be repurposed!

2. Keurig’s K-Cups

Not Recyclable!

Did you know Keurig sold 10.5 billion K-Cups in 2015 alone? Each one of those K-Cups likely ended up in the landfill. K-Cups are only recyclable if you separate each component of the pod, and it’s safe to assume most coffee drinkers don’t take that extra step after their drink is done brewing.

Thankfully, there are reusable K-Cups out there that can prevent you from adding to the landfills. You simply fill up the cup with ground coffee each time you make your drink, and you can use the filter again and again.

3. Plastic Grocery Bags

Not Recyclable!

You should never put plastic grocery bags in your recycle bin. Even though they were originally invented with the hope that consumers would reuse them, most people end up throwing grocery bags in the trash. From there, they accumulate in landfills and even end up blowing away into local ponds, streams, and lakes.

It can take over 500 years for a plastic bag to degrade in a landfill, so it’s especially important for the bags to be properly recycled. Many grocery stores have an area near their front door where you can dispose of your plastic grocery bags. From there, the bags are repurposed into other products like lumber for decks or other plastic bags.

4. Yogurt & Hummus Containers

Sometimes Recyclable!

Have you ever thought about all the single-use food packaging you use? Hummus and yogurt containers are some of the worst offenders! The packages usually end up in the trash can even if they are technically recyclable. Consumers often don’t inspect the package for recycle information before tossing them in the trash.

Always inspect any food packaging before discarding it. If it’s recyclable, the package will mention that somewhere! For items like yogurt and hummus, you’ll need to rinse out the container before recycling it. It helps the recycle centers keep their equipment clean for future recycling.

5. Paper Cups

Not Recyclable!

Paper cups are used all the time. They’re inexpensive, and most people tend to think of them as an eco-friendly alternative to plastic cups. However, paper cups aren’t actually recyclable!

There is a plastic coating on the inside of the cups that prevent them from disintegrating when you fill them up. As helpful as that sounds, the plastic lining is what stops the cup from breaking down in landfills.

It can take more than 20 years for a single paper cup to decompose in a landfill. Think of all the parties you’ve attended and water coolers you’ve sipped at, not knowing you were contributing to a 20-year landfill problem. Your best bet is to go with a reusable water bottle instead. They’re more fashionable anyway!

6. Aluminum Cans

Recyclable!

Over $700 million worth of aluminum cans are thrown in the trash each year in the United States. Just because the cans are recyclable doesn’t mean that consumers always dispose of them properly! It’s not unusual for people to toss aluminum cans into the trash at concerts, parties, and in offices.

It can take up to 200 years for aluminum to decompose in a landfill, so the impact to the environment is significant. Always put your aluminum cans in the recycle bin!

7. Styrofoam

Not Recyclable!

Styrofoam is never recyclable. Because of this, it takes up serious amounts of space in landfills. In fact, Styrofoam products fill up approximately 30% of our landfill space! The reason is because the material is non-biodegradable. Styrofoam rarely breaks down entirely, and even if it does, it can take up to 500 years to decompose.

The economic impact Styrofoam has on the environment is one of the biggest reasons that restaurants are opting for more ecofriendly takeout containers.


Speed Round: Food & Restaurants

Are Starbucks Cups Recyclable?

Starbucks cups usually can’t be recycled. The cups are made of multiple layers, so recycle centers would need to separate each layer of the cup to properly recycle them. For that reason, most facilities don’t bother with the recycle process for Starbucks cups.

In March of 2020, Starbucks announced that they are testing fully compostable cups in five cities throughout the country. There’s no telling whether the cups will hang around since it’s just a pilot program, but it’s a step in the right direction!

Can You Recycle Ice Cream Cartons?

You can recycle ice cream cartons in certain areas of the United States. It varies from city to city, so it’s best to consult your local waste management facility to know for sure.

Ice cream cartons are made from paperboard, which is similar to other food packaging like cereal or granola bar boxes. However, there is an extra layer on the box called kaolin that allows brands to print product information and logos on them. This is what makes them tricky to recycle!

Are Dunkin Donuts Boxes Recyclable?

Dunkin’ Donuts boxes are recyclable in most local recycling facilities. They’re also biodegradable, which makes them more environmentally friendly than other restaurant to-go boxes.

In May of 2017, Dunkin’ announced that they are striving toward eco-friendly packaging wherever possible. As of that date, customers can safely recycle their espresso sleeves, bagel bags, Box O’ Joe containers, and various sandwich wrappings. If you’re ever curious if your box or wrapper is recyclable, check the recycle codes printed on the packaging to be sure!’

Can You Recycle Plastic Utensils?

Technically, plastic utensils should be recyclable. However, because of the cost associated with breaking down this type of plastic, most recycling centers won’t accept them. Plastic utensils are usually marked with a number 6 recycle code, and you can contact your local waste management facility to see if they process that type of plastic.

Final Thoughts

Knowing the effect that household products have on the environment empowers us to make better purchasing decisions. Whether you reduce the amount of disposable items in your home or opt for a more eco-friendly product instead, it’s always a good idea to make environmentally aware decisions. Knowledge is power!

References

Brown, D. (2019, March 19). K-cups and coffee capsules: Is your quick java fix killing the environment? Retrieved June 9, 2020, from https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2019/03/13/heres-why-your-used-k-cups-coffee-pods-arent-usually-recycled/3067283002/

Little, M. (2019, July 02). Facts About Landfill & Styrofoam. Retrieved June 9, 2020, from https://sciencing.com/facts-about-landfill-styrofoam-5176735.html

Folia One-Piece. (n.d.). Retrieved June 9, 2020, from https://www.ecoproducts.com/folia_one_piece.html

Father’s Day. Workshop organization. Recycle, reuse… nut cans reimagined for a new use. Ready to give or keep for yourself. Sold as a set. (n.d.). Retrieved June 9, 2020, from https://www.etsy.com/listing/758932195/fathers-day-workshop-organization

Light & Fit Vanilla Light & Fit Nonfat Yogurt Container. (n.d.). Retrieved June 9, 2020, from https://www.hy-vee.com/grocery/PD49466154/Light-Fit-Vanilla-Light-Fit-Nonfat-Yogurt-Container

Gehrman, E. (2014, April 06). Why paper cups just aren’t greener – The Boston Globe. Retrieved June 9, 2020, from https://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/2014/04/02/why-paper-cups-just-aren-greener/W3TIBJ9dff8INlumPQvHSI/story.html

Planters Mixed Nuts – 15oz. (n.d.). Retrieved June 9, 2020, from https://www.target.com/p/planters-mixed-nuts-15oz/-/A-15124544

Dunkin’ Donuts. (2017, May). Dunkin’ Donuts U.S. Packaging and Recycling Update [Press release]. Retrieved June 9, 2020.

10 Facts About Single-use Plastic Bags. (n.d.). Retrieved June 9, 2020, from https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/population_and_sustainability/sustainability/plastic_bag_facts.html

Wiener-Bronner, D. (2017, February 27). Forget plastic straws. Starbucks has a cup problem. Retrieved June 9, 2020, from https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2019/02/business/starbucks-cup-problem

Kirschner, C. (2010, June 22). Can plastic forks and plates be recycled? Retrieved June 9, 2020, from http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/06/22/mnn.plastic.forks.recycle/

Granger, T. (2018, April 23). Recycling Mystery: Ice Cream Cartons. Retrieved June 9, 2020, from https://earth911.com/food/recycling-mystery-ice-cream-cartons/

About the author

Kelsey Skager

Kelsey is a master of promotional products with over five years of marketing and industry experience. She is proud to have been featured on ABC 7 Chicago News and NPR.