Live Green and Earn Points


Because You Asked

Can I Recycle Pet-Food Bags?

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Depending on what they’re made of, you might be able to recycle that pet food bag.


Dear Recyclebank: Can I recycle the bags from my dry, dog and cat food? –Sue M.

Dear Sue: It can be a challenge to be a pet lover and to be environmentally responsible (a case in point being kitty litter). When it comes to recycling pet-food bags, it often comes down to what the bag is made of, and what your curbside hauler, or a local drop-off program, accepts.

We consulted Diane Herndon, senior manager of sustainability for Purina, to get some input on whether pet food bags are recyclable. She says the packaging used for dry pet food is made up of a variety of materials, including polypropylene, paperboard, and mixed plastics (polyester and polyethylene).

Purina and other pet food manufacturers are increasingly turning to flexible plastic materials like polypropylene for pet-food bags because it is more durable than paper, it’s lightweight for shipping, and it keeps the food fresher. Unfortunately, most curbside recycling programs don’t accept this material because many Material Recovery Facilities (MRF) can’t sort it. Pet food that comes in a paper bag might not be recyclable either, if it’s been reinforced with a plastic coating — as one municipal recycling facility puts it: If you can’t tear it, it’s probably not recyclable. Purina has a recycling guide on its site where you can check the recyclability of various food- and pet-product packages.

Terracycle has a recycling program to collect and recycle Wellness and Open Farm pet-food bags. For these programs — or if you find another recycling program that will accept your plastic pet-food bags — just make sure the bags are empty, and if you wash them (not necessary, says Herndon), they should be dried.

While it can be a challenge to recycle plastic pet-food bags right now, it might not always be. Purina is working with other product and packaging manufacturers in a research collaborative called Materials Recovery for the Future (MRFF).

“Member companies and organizations, like Purina, are working with community recyclers to find a way, through separation technologies, new equipment installation and process reconfigurations, to cost-effectively separate and make a market out of recycling flexible plastic resin,” says Herndon.

An early study shows that today’s sorting equipment could be optimized to accommodate flexible plastic packaging, which would create an entirely new stream of recoverable materials. According to the MRFF website, the organization is currently looking for an (MRF) to participate in a pilot program.

There’s good news when it comes to other pet care products, though: Herndon says the steel-aluminum cans for wet pet food, as well as litter jugs, and the box and tray packaging for can variety packs, are all recyclable.



Do you recycle your pet food containers? Share your experiences with us in the comments below.

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About the Author
Jessica Harlan
Jessica Harlan
I love finding new ways to green my family's life as painlessly as possible, and sharing those ideas with folks who want to do the same. more
  • Carole K. 4 months ago
    What do I save on bags and cans to get points
  • Kathie M. 1 year ago
    I have parrots cats and dogs I have stacks of plastic bags from treats bird seed bird treats dog food dog biscuits and I don't know what to do with them they're all labeled five and six but no one takes them. I also have bags that nuts come in peanut bags sunflower seeds what do you do with those kind of bags. I probably use 50 if not a hundred a month
    • Carol C. 3 months ago
      I make reusable tote bags out of used feed bags. I would love to have bags to work with as I don’t go through enough pet food bags to keep up with demand. I’m not sure if the shipping cost would affect the price I could charge. I’d like to sell bags and donate a portion of the proceeds to a local cat shelter. It seems like a wonderful way to upcycle.
    • Jacqueline J. 2 months ago
      Hi Carol, my name's Jackie, and I have plenty of large cat food bags that are not accepted for recycling. I can provide you with as many used bags as you want to work with. I would really LOVE to see your finished tote bags, and know some people who'd probably buy them! Please contact me right away at:
      I look forward to hearing from you soon. Thanks!
    • Elizabeth E. 1 month ago
      I have several large dog food bags that cannot be recycled that I have been saving. I knew there was someone that could put them to good use. Please contact me at
  • shannon p. 3 years ago
    I always use cat food that comes in a paper container
    • Kate K. 2 years ago
      Most people buy cat food based on how nutritionally appropriate for the pet's health needs, not what kind of bag it comes in.
    • Lynn L. 1 year ago
      Yes, we do! Until we learn how incredibly important treating Mother Earth gently is and then we try to do both!
  • Hana A. 3 years ago
    Luckily my town currently accepts the metal and plastic cans for our natural pet food containers. Crossing fingers it will continue as this coming year, town is changing recycle companies.
  • Lynn M. 3 years ago
    I use the big bags to collect cans.
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