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Q & A: Recycling Pet Products

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Can pet lovers be eco-friendly? We answer a member's questions about the recyclability of pet food containers.
UPDATED: 05/02/11 | Originally Published: 04/30/10

I'm a pet owner with cats and a dog and was wondering what steps are really necessary in order to recycle pet food cans and supplies. Are all pet food containers recyclable? Do I need to remove the labels and clean them?

It's great that you want to do your part and recycle your pet food containers. As a cat owner myself, I know how many bags, cans, pouches and tubs a pet owner can go through each month just keeping their furry friends fed.

The good news is, many pet food containers are recyclable. Here's what you need to know about the most common types of containers — but be sure to check with your local recycling service if you have any specific questions, as recycling laws and programs vary from city to city and can be found on your local government's website. Additionally, a good source to research rules is

Metal Cans: Metal, specifically aluminum, is one of the most recyclable materials, so go ahead and put those cans in your recycling bins every time. The metal cans that wet food comes in should be rinsed out (if only to keep your recycling bins from getting smelly), but the labels do not need to be removed unless for some reason your municipality requests it, which is rare. In fact, Purina wants all pet owners to realize that their aluminium pet food cans are recyclable at home or a community recycling center.

Dry Food Bags: In my city, Atlanta, all paper products are accepted, so I can throw the empty cat food bags into my home recycling bin, but in other parts of the country, paper pet food bags that have shiny plastic lamination inside or out, are not as readily accepted in paper recycling programs. As for plastic pet food bags, you can find out from the manufacturer what class plastic they're made of (many are class 5), and then check with your recycling program to see if this type of plastic is accepted. Some recycling programs might even request that you rinse or wipe out the oily residue from your bags, but it really varies by locality.

Corrugated and Cardboard Food and Cat Litter Boxes: Most recycling services accept corrugated trays and cardboard boxes, so you should be able to easily recycle them. Be sure to empty any remaining crumbs from the bottom of the box, and flatten it or bundle it according to your local service's requirements. If you cat litter box has a plastic carrying handle, be sure to pull it out before recycling.

Pouches: My cat loves the moist cat food chunks and gravy that come in the little foil pouches, but unfortunately, my recycling service doesn't love all of these packages. According to one manufacturer, the pouches are not recyclable everywhere because they are made of mixed materials, like aluminum foil laminated with plastic — the two can't be separated, and would need to be before being recycled.

Plastic Tubs: The plastic tubs that cat litter come in are most often made of polypropylene film #5, which is not accepted into many recycling programs, though you'll want to make sure what's accepted by yours specifically.

Even better than recycling these big containers — why not reuse them instead? Thoroughly cleaned and with the labels removed or covered up, the big tubs make excellent totes for toys, arts and craft supplies, beach toys, or cleaning supplies. Next time you head to the pet store to stock up on food, litter, and other supplies, check to see if there are bulk options available so that you could cut down on packaging altogether.

How do you reuse or recycle your pet food containers? Share your tips below!

Friskies® and Fancy Feast® brand cat foods are raising awareness about aluminum pet food can recycling. Visit for more information.

Did You Know? Recycling one 3-oz. Fancy Feast or Friskies aluminum can saves enough energy to power a 20-watt CFL light bulb for over six hours.

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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.