Plastic Utensils Go in the Trash

plastic utensils

Don’t toss that plastic fork, spoon or knife into your recycling. Plastic utensils — with or without the recycling symbol — go in the garbage. Here’s why they can’t be recycled and how you can avoid using them.

Plastic utensils aren’t recyclable for two main reasons. The first reason is their small, skinny shape. When plastic utensils end up at the recycling facility, they tend to either fall through or get stuck in the machinery that sorts objects into groups of the same material. Most machinery can’t handle items smaller than 2-3 inches around, and utensils are so skinny that they fall through the equipment. Second, plastic utensils vary in plastic type. They’re commonly made of plastic #1, plastic #5, plastic #6, or bioplastic. Because they are identical in shape and size, the different types of plastic make them very difficult to sort correctly.

Fortunately, there is a simple solution to the plastic utensil problem: reusable utensils! That fork or spoon that doesn’t quite match any of the others in your silverware set is the perfect candidate for a zero waste take-out kit. Keep forgetting to bring your utensils? Consider keeping a set in your purse, backpack or car. Every time you use your reusable utensils, you’ll know you’ve kept a plastic fork or spoon from forever existing in a landfill. (Not to mention saving all the resources and energy that go into producing disposable utensils!)

Do you still have some plastic utensils in your silverware drawer or the glovebox of your car? Rinse and reuse them until they break, then dispose of them in the garbage.

The Town of Truckee is currently considering strategies to reduce waste from disposable foodware items. Up for consideration is a policy that would require that disposables like utensils and straws aren’t automatically given out to customers, but only provided upon request. Learn about other policies up for consideration and how to get involved.