Green Packaging

Cracking the Code

The bad news is that the terminology is often confusing and the best disposal method is sometimes unclear. Here's a quick & simple guide to cracking the code:

The good news is that there are many eco-friendly alternatives to traditional disposable packaging, flatware, cups and cutlery.


What does it mean?
'Recyclable' products can be collected and reprocessed to produce new items. Common recyclable materials are: paper, cardboard, plastic, glass, aluminum, and electronic waste. Recycling is very important in diverting waste from landfills.

How Do You Identify Recyclable Products?
Many simple paper and plastic products are marked with the universal recycling symbol. Many complex electrical products (mobile phones, computers, printers, etc.) contain parts and materials which can be recycled by disassembling the products. Other products such as batteries, paints and fertilizers can be specially processed to reduce the environmental impact of their disposal.

Visit to view a list of products which can be recycled instead of thrown in the trash.

How Do You Dispose of Recyclable Products?
  • The easiest way to recycle is through your municipal curbside garbage program, assuming such a program is available. Find out what sorts of materials are accepted through this program, and how the materials should be separated to ensure they are processed correctly.
  • For recycled materials which aren't collected curbside, use a service like to find a local drop-off center.

Plastic Recycling Number System   
Number 1 Plastics

PET or PETE (polyethylene terephthalate)

Found in: Soft drink, water and beer bottles; mouthwash bottles; peanut butter containers; salad dressing and vegetable oil containers; ovenable food trays.
Recycling: Picked up through most curbside recycling programs.

Recycled into: Polar fleece, fiber, tote bags, furniture, carpet, paneling, straps, (occasionally) new containers

PET plastic is the most common for single-use bottled beverages, because it is inexpensive, lightweight and easy to recycle. It poses low risk of leaching breakdown products. Recycling rates remain relatively low (around 20%).

Number 2 Plastics

HDPE (high density polyethylene)

Found in: Milk jugs, juice bottles; bleach, detergent and household cleaner bottles; shampoo bottles; some trash and shopping bags; motor oil bottles; butter and yogurt tubs; cereal box liners

Recycling: Picked up through most curbside recycling programs, although some allow only those containers with necks.
Recycled into: Laundry detergent bottles, oil bottles, pens, recycling containers, floor tile, drainage pipe, lumber, benches, doghouses, picnic tables, fencing

HDPE is a versatile plastic with many uses, especially for packaging. It carries low risk of leaching and is readily recyclable into many goods.

Number 3 Plastics

V (Vinyl) or PVC

Found in: Window cleaner and detergent bottles, shampoo bottles, cooking oil bottles, clear food packaging, wire jacketing, medical equipment, siding, windows, piping

Recycling: Rarely recycled; accepted by some plastic lumber makers.
Recycled into: Decks, paneling, mudflaps, roadway gutters, flooring, cables, speed bumps, mats

PVC is tough and weathers well, so it is commonly used for piping, siding and similar applications. PVC contains chlorine, so its manufacture can release highly dangerous dioxins. If you must cook with PVC, don't let the plastic touch food. Also never burn PVC, because it releases toxins.

Number 4 Plastics

LDPE (low density polyethylene)

Found in: Squeezable bottles; bread, frozen food, dry cleaning and shopping bags; tote bags; clothing; furniture; carpet

Recycling: LDPE is not often recycled through curbside programs, but some communities will accept it. Plastic shopping bags can be returned to many stores for recycling.

Recycled into: Trash can liners and cans, compost bins, shipping envelopes, paneling, lumber, landscaping ties, floor tile

LDPE is a flexible plastic with many applications. Historically it has not been accepted through most American curbside recycling programs, but more and more communities are starting to accept.


What Does It Mean?
'Biodegradable' simply means that a product will break down into carbon dioxide, water and biomass within a reasonable amount of time in the natural environment. The term 'biodegradable' however has no legal enforcement or definition therefore the term has been used loosely by some manufacturers.

Biodegradability is a desirable feature in products such as cleaning agents. Conventional cleaning agents will often release harmful phosphates and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) as they break down, but biodegradable versions will not.

How Do You Identify Biodegradable Products? indicates biodegradable products via our Green Screen™ system with the following icons:

How Do You Dispose of Biodegradable Products?
Products that are labeled as 'biodegradable' can be disposed of in your garbage. However it is important to remember that landfills lack the microorganisms and oxygen required for waste to biodegrade in a timely manner, so you should still try to minimize your use of items that are not recyclable or compostable.


What Does It Mean?
'Compostable' products are biodegradable, but with an added benefit: when they break down, they release valuable nutrients into the soil, aiding the growth of trees and plants. These products degrade within several months in an industrial composting facility and produce no toxic residues.

Compostability is a desirable feature in traditionally-disposable products such as plates, bowls, cups and cutlery. These products are commonly made out of PLA (Polylactic acid), bagasse (sugarcane fiber) or vegetable starch. It is environmentally-preferable to use disposable products that are labeled 'compostable' rather than just 'biodegradable'.

How Do You Identify Compostable Products? indicates compostable products via our Green Screen™ system with the following icons:

There is also a Third Party Certification issued by the Biodegradable Products Institute which is indicated by the following Green Screen icon:

How Do You Dispose of Compostable Products?
  • Products that are labeled 'compostable' should enter an industrial composting facility to fully degrade into organic matter. If your city has a composting facility, place these products in your compost collection bins to be picked up. Compostable products will typically degrade in 30-120 days in an industrial composter, depending on the product size and material used.
  • If your city doesn't provide industrial composting, you can dispose of compostable products in your backyard or home composter, but they will take longer to degrade.
  • If you do not have access to a compost facility or a home composter, dispose of the compostables in the garbage. This option should be your last resort as waste does not easily biodegrade in landfills.
  • Do not put compostables into your recycling! They are not recyclable and will contaminate the recycling process.