Dear Recyclebank: I was wondering about the plastic wrappers on sliced cheese products. It is stiffer than grocery bags and more like cellophane. Can it be recycled? –Arlene P.
Dear Arlene: With picnic season approaching, individually wrapped, sliced cheese is often seen as more convenient than blocks of cheese that you have to cut. Who doesn’t want ready-to-go cheese slices included in their hamper full of sandwich or barbecue fixings at a Memorial Day gathering? However, convenience isn’t the only value, and it often comes with a heavier carbon footprint.
Cheese wrappers tend not to be marked with a Resin Identification Code (RIC), which can make it hard to tell which type of plastic they’re made of. It’s difficult to know for sure, but it’s likely the plastic wrapped around your individually sliced cheese is a form of low-density polyethylene (#4) plastic — the same as plastic grocery bags, but in a thicker form. While these plastics are widely recycled, the potential issue with cheese wrappers is one we’ve discussed before: Plastic films have the potential to wreak havoc on recycling machinery. Cheese wrappers are smaller and stiffer than something like cling wrap, and certain curbside programs may accept them; you’ll need to check with your city or town to be certain. As with plastic bags, drop-off recycling programs are likely to be a safer choice for sliced-cheese wrappers.
A better option would be to avoid them. The more packaging an item requires, the bigger a carbon footprint it represents and the harder it is on the environment before and after use. Instead of buying sliced-cheese wrapped in plastic, save money and resources by buying your cheese by the block (less plastic) and slicing as you need it. If going on a picnic, you can portion slices out into reusable, portable food containers like Tupperware, or use reusable beeswax food wraps, from Abeego or Bee’s Wrap. Using these methods may have the added benefit of better-tasting cheese; cheesemongers tend to frown upon plastic wraps, which don’t allow cheese to breathe and which stifle its flavor. You’ll be reducing your waste output and improving your dining experience by reducing your reliance on plastic wrappers.
SOURCES: Los Angeles Times