Ice cream is one of the world's most popular desserts, and the plastic containers the product is sold in can be recycled. If you are looking for ways to be more environmentally friendly, rinse out used ice cream containers and recycle them at a recycling centre.
There are seven types of plastic containers, each with a unique chemical make-up and a unique type number. Before you can recycle an ice cream container you must determine the type of plastic that was used to make it. This number is generally printed on the bottom of the container and is inscribed with a triangular recycling symbol. Type 1 (PETE) and type 2 (HDPE) generally include plastic bags, milk jugs, soft-drink containers and water bottles, though some ice cream containers are also made from this plastic. Type 3 includes plastic food wrap and oil containers, while type 4 (LDPE) generally includes plastic bags. Type 5 includes yoghurt containers, bottle tops and diapers, and types 6 and 7 are generally layered or mixed plastics. Although many ice cream cartons are made from types 6 and 7, some companies now use more easily recyclable containers.
Before recycling an ice cream container, rinse it. Many recycling centres prefer that containers be thoroughly rinsed to eliminate odour and spills, and that they be free of labels. If possible, crush the containers or stack them to minimise the space they take up in recycling bins.
In general, plastic products made from type 1 (PETE) or type 2 (HDPE) plastic can be recycled at the curb along with other commonly recycled products. Products made of Type 4 plastic can generally be recycled at local grocery stores. Recycling products made of Types 3, 6 and 7 are generally more difficult to recycle, and so recycling is handled differently from county to country. If your ice cream container is made from these types of plastic, call your local recycling representative to determine if and where these products can be recycled. Although commonly considered to be recyclable, containers made from Type 5 plastic can now be recycled at select Whole Foods Markets in the Midwest, Northeast and Northern California, as part of the 'Gimme 5' recycling program.
If your ice cream container is made from a plastic that cannot be recycled in your area, consider reusing the container around your workplace or home. Rinse and paint ice cream containers to make decorative pots for plants. Use them as watering cans, or fill with beer and set in a garden to attract slugs and other pests. Use the containers to organise small toiletry bottles in the bathroom, or in a pantry to store bulk products like flour or sugar.
If you are unsure what type of plastic your ice cream container is, or to find a participating recycling centre near you, be sure to contact your local public works department. A representative will be able to help you determine what plastic type your container is, and will provide you with any additional information necessary to recycle. For general or state inquiries on recycling, call 1-800-CLEANUP.