Plastic #5 Recycling Got You Feeling Blue?

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Do you have difficulty finding recycling locations for plastic #5 in your community? Although polypropylene packaging is used for hundreds of products, a limited number of communities have curbside #5 plastic collection to make it easy for residents to recycle this common household waste.

You’ve probably got plastic #5 in your refrigerator or medicine cabinet right now. Common packaging made from polypropylene includes containers for:

  • Cottage cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Cream cheese
  • Ricotta cheese
  • Margarine
  • Hummus
  • Medicine bottles
  • Some plastic ice cream containers
  • Food storage and take-out containers

If your community doesn’t have curbside polypropylene recycling, don’t despair. Rather than trashing these resources, you can recycle them at Whole Foods locations across the country, now added to the database.  Preserve,  a company working with Whole Foods to collect polypropylene, recycles these materials into useful products, like cutting boards, plates, toothbrushes, razors and cutlery.

Don’t have a Whole Foods near you? Preserve offers a number of mail-in programs to help keep your polypropylene out of landfills and in the recycling stream.

According to Preserve, their recycled plastic #5 uses at least:

  • 54 percent less water than virgin polypropylene
  • 64 percent less greenhouse gases (in CO2 equivalents) than virgin polypropylene
  • 75 percent less oil than virgin polypropylene
  • 48 percent less coal than virgin polypropylene
  • 77 percent less natural gas than virgin polypropylene
  • 46 percent less electricity than virgin polypropylene

Preserve uses life cycle inventory (LCI) datasets to “detail the inputs and outputs of recycled and virgin polypropylene – everything used to make polypropylene as well as all the waste created by the manufacturing process (including water usage, energy usage, pollutants, etc.). These datasets allow Preserve to understand the environmental differences between virgin polypropylene and [their] particular recycling process for yogurt cups shipped from the middle of America, 1500 miles, to [their] reprocessor.”

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  1. What about those of us who don’t have a Whole Foods store anywhere near us. How do we dispose of our #5 plastics. Just keep taking ’em to the local landfill or transfer station I guess, huh.

  2. I have the same question. And our church has LOTS of #5 plastic because all our candles come in #5 inserts. Been working on solving this problem for years.

  3. we all live in a towmship,county,or village or whatever that preaches recycling,start with them they get info from more sources then you can think of.just ask.

  4. All flip top plastic caps on everything from ketchup bottles to your shampoo, etc are made from polypropylene. Most of these do not have the designated #5 symbol on them however, so will just continue to pile up in landfills.

  5. You may never have noticed this but DVD cases are a #5 plastic. And I’m trying to get rid of them but the gimme 5 program through Whole Foods can’t take them because they are black which doesn’t work to well with the colors that they want their containers to be. Is there anywhere in MN that takes a #5 plastic that doesn’t care about the color of it.

  6. I think all this recycle is full of sh…
    just like the land fills all you people say is to
    recycle but when you come down to it no one
    knows who is doing what or where it is going
    I have a huge amount of #5 from a greenhouse
    and I am surely not going to send it to New York???

  7. Every spring. I throw out about one hundred #5 plastic flower pots that I have purchased which held flowers and /or vegetables. My local sanitation service doesn’t accept anything but #1 &#2. Where in New Jersey or eastern PA can I take these for recycling?

  8. I work at a high school and contacted Aveda about sending caps to them for recycling. They have been extremely helpful. They provided the school with pre-addresssed UPS mailing labels and cover the cost of shipping. I would suggest contacting your local schools to get them on board- that would give you a place to take your caps. Not only has this program been very successful, it has brought awareness to many of our staff and students just how many plastic bottles they use and hopefully will convince them to come up with less wasteful ways to drink water, sports drinks, etc.

  9. I’m looking to recycle #5 too, in PA and I’m very upset that PA does not even appear on the list on earth911. That is really daunting because I was sure PA was doing a good job but apparently not. And to think of all the trash that Philly produces…. Arrrgghh!!

  10. About those used flower pots….I have found a local (mom and pop type) place that sells plants that gladly
    took them. Have you checked with your local greenhouses, nurseries etc. With the economy being so bad, you would probably be saving some business some money.

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  12. Those of you in Eastern PA take heart! There is a GREAT recycling center in POTTSTOWN. See link. RSI takes just about ANYTHING and EVERYTHING! It’s an amazing place, although it’s a little hard to find. The last time I was there it was $8 per carload. Take a look at the website to learn more about them.

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  16. I took a bagful of my clean #5s to our local Whole Foods. An employee told me I could leave it at the front or take it around back to the recycling containers. Curious to see what the setup was I said I would take it myself and I’m so glad I did. The containers were foul; filled with dirty containers, many in plastic bags and it looked like some people were also tossing in garbage. I dumped my #5s vowing to find another way to recycle them. I’m going to try WF one more time and if it looks the same I’ll speak to the manager. Beyond that I have a brother that lives in VT, where they do recycle #5s, and he said I’m welcome to bring them with me when I go visit.

  17. I tried to go to my local pharmacy and ask if I could return empty pill bottles for them to re-use. They said, “NOPE.” I don’t get it. Wouldn’t that save them a bunch of money. Reuse should be attempted before recycle. Does anyone know pf any place that takes prescription pill bottles to re-use?

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  19. Jodi – pharmacies don’t have the resources they need to safely reuse medication bottles- they need to be clean, and traces of the previous medicine could be harmful or problematic for the next prescription. That being said, I found a 4H project that has been collecting and donating pill bottles to a clinic that does accept them. try this url to check it out –

    Marilyn – i love that you were taking your flower pots to a new good home – reuse is a better option than recycling any day! i do the same thing with egg cartons – there’s always someone at the farmer’s market who is happy to get a stack.

  20. I live really near the Preserve Gimme5 company in Cortland, NY, that uses the #5 plastic. I drive by there often. But get this… they won’t take my #5 plastic! And there is no drop-off spot in all of upstate New York, even though that’s where Whole Foods (which we do not have) is shipping it. It’s very bizarre. I’m about ready to just stick it all on their doorstep. Then what would they do with it? Throw it away? I tried writing to Stonyfield and got some text-analyzing bot email answer. It is amazingly frustrating.

  21. My dog food is now packaged in a plastic “woven” type bag, just when I was thinking this is a real pain as I have at least 3 bags as week (18 pound size). NOW my horse feed is coming in the same bags!! That comes to at least 6 bags (50 pound size) a week. I tried calling the horse feed supplier, they said the bags are Class 5 and gave me this Internet site to check. The closest “local” place to drop off Class 5 plastics is about 1.5 to 2 hours away, one way. SO, I called the New York mail in center, they only accept hard plastic and not the bags. I called my local land fill and they treat the bags as regular garbage and just dump it in the fill.
    WHAT CAN I DO??? This seems like a great waste, I was able to use the paper bags for at least 3 or 4 things around the farm, the plastic bags are useless.
    Thank you.

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  23. in Philadelphia, during the planting season, Greensgrow Farms in Kensington takes back plastic flower pots for recycling no matter where they came from. it’s also a really cool place to visit.

  24. Jodi,
    A man I work with collects the old prescription bottles for missionaries who travel to othere countries that can’t afford the bottles.

  25. Well I’m lucky I live in Austin,Tx. we(the city) has single stream recyling and we get to throw all plastics #1–# 7 in our bins,also those tubs and Rx bottles can be donated to daycares and MHMR schools,I put seeds in the pill bottles,also check your kids schools they always need stuff like this for art/science classes,we also have grocery stores that take back plastic bags for recyling.

  26. My daughter and I sew tote bags from recycled grain bags — a #5. Everyone is so happy to donate these bags so they can have another use beyond the ‘one-time’. Why can’t these bags be recycled? Think of how many of these bags go to the landfill — can’t this be figured out by the “recycling gurus”??

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