Dear Recyclebank: Can I recycle the pouches my vitamin supplements come in? They appear to be paper on the outside but aluminum on the inside. –Dan Kauffman
Dear Dan: These days, disposable packaging pouches are being made from a variety of materials: Everything from Mylar to rice paper is on the market. With so many different pouch products out there, it’s difficult to know what materials each type is made of just by looking.
When more than one type of material is used in a pouch, as is the case with most pouches for vitamins, it complicates the recycling process in ways typical of mixed-material recycling.
Some stand-up pouches will claim to be recyclable, however, that does not necessarily mean your hauler will accept them. If you use these kinds of pouches often, check with your local facility to see if they are accepted before putting them in your curbside recycling container.
If your local MRF isn’t equipped to handle these kinds of materials, putting them in your recycle will cause problems for the facility, so it’s important to ask first. If your hauler says “no,” try reaching out to your supplement manufacturer directly. They should be able to give you details on what exactly is in their packaging, as well as information on any mail-in programs they may provide.
Terracycle has free programs for accepting many different kinds of packaging, so they may also be an option for recycling your pouches.
If you want to avoid complications, see if your preferred brand sells its products in recyclable bottles, or consider switching to a brand that does, if possible. While a bottle may not be as convenient to take with you on the go, you can easily portion out doses into a reusable container, such as a weekly pill organizer or a plastic baggie, to take with you. If you have to purchase in pouches, avoid individually packaged doses when you can.
Sometimes convenience and eco-friendliness are at odds, as the market continues to catch up with the needs of sustainability. Your smart choices — and supporting brands that lead in green packaging — go a long way to promote sustainable business practices and eventually make recyclable packaging mainstream.