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Because You Asked

Because You Asked: Can You Recycle Frozen-Food Boxes? 5

By Recyclebank |

Frozen food boxes are similar to the boxes granola bars and other non-perishable snacks are packaged in, but one important detail changes everything.

Dear Recyclebank: Can You Recycle Frozen Food Boxes? –Melissa H.

Dear Melissa: Frozen-food boxes are made of poly-coated paperboard (sometimes called “plastic-coated” paperboard): A product made of paperboard, coated in a thin layer of plastic to prevent freezer burn, moisture leakage, and product degradation during use. While paperboard is regularly recycled worldwide, the thin layer of plastic used in frozen-food packaging prevents those packages from being regularly recycled. Before you put ice-pop and frozen-pizza boxes in with your other paper recyclables, call your local hauler to find out if they will accept them, because many haulers do not.

Poly-coated paperboard is an example of mixed-materials packaging, a product that contains a combination of different materials. As is generally the case with mixed-materials packaging, both materials used to make frozen-food boxes are recyclable, but they are layered in such a way that it becomes difficult to separate them during the recycling process. Waste Management is one recycler that accepts poly-coated paperboard for recycling. They use a process called hydro-pulping to separate the polyethylene from the paper fibers and then recycle the materials separately.

Wax-coated cardboard is another mixed-material packaging product that is similar to, and often confused with, poly-coated paperboard. You can differentiate the two materials by scratching the coating; if the coating is gouged or comes away easily, it is coated in a wax, not plastic. Similar to poly-coated paperboard, wax-coated cardboard it is rarely recyclable. One distinct difference is that wax-coated cardboard may be compostable, though only if the material’s coating is made of a compostable wax such as soybean or bees wax — not paraffin wax. Frozen-food boxes and other poly-coated paperboard products, however, should never be composted due to the plastic they contain.

If your waste hauler does not accept poly-coated paperboard, contact local drop-off recyclers to see if they will accept this mixed material.

You could also try to forego frozen meals altogether. Consider making large batches of meals you love and freezing them in reusable containers at the beginning of each week. This would eliminate many of these hard-to-recycle mixed-material boxes from your life, and might even save you some money!

SOURCES: American Disposal Services, Eco-Cycle, Reporter Herald, Waste Free Blog, Waste Management

Do you have tips for pre-batched meal planning that helps you avoid excess packaging? Share them in the comments!

Share with Your Friends & Family
  • Gina L. 5 days ago
    Why is paper that has been drawn/written on by crayons okay to recycle? The crayons are made of wax. That would mean a combination of materials.
  • Latoya R. 6 days ago
    Good to know
  • Rebecca D. 8 days ago
    I make one casserole or frozen food item for our family and another at the same time for people in my church who are ill. Barely cost anything.
  • Norma C. 10 days ago
    You asked how to avoid brand frozen foods, cook extra when preparing meals and portion freeze your own.
  • Susan B. 11 days ago
    I hadn't thought about this, but had wondered about some cardboard packaging that appears to have metallic ink printing on it (cat litter boxes come to mind). My hauler doesn't take wrapping paper with metallic designs or confetti on it, but hasn't said anything about printed cardboard.
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