It’s that time of year when we tear through candy with utter glee. The first few days of November will no doubt be filled with chocolate, Starburst, and all sorts of good candy. And along with that sugar rush, we’ll amass quite a pile of candy wrappers, all of which will be dumped in the trash. But they’re made of plastic—so why can’t we recycle them?
There are a few reasons that candy wrappers can’t be recycled. One of the reasons is because they’re simply too small. Since the wrappers are made of a thin material, they’re particularly hard to sort at a recycling facility, as the City of San José Environmental Services Department explains. Most of the time they end up sticking to other recyclable material and become contaminants to those items as they’re sorted.
The other big reason candy wrappers can’t be recycled is because they’re oftentimes not made of one single material. As soon as you mix materials such as plastic and aluminum, or paper and aluminum, that renders the wrapper impossible to recycle, as recycling plants cannot separate the two components for future use. So off to the trash it goes.
However, if you’ve got a wrapper that’s completely made out of foil, such as one that wraps a chocolate bar, that can go in the recycling bin. You’ll know it’s recyclable if it has the same color and material on both the interior and exterior side. If you’re not sure it’s actually foil, though, the San José Environmental Services Department says to just pitch it. When in doubt, throw it out.
What to do with candy wrappers and prevent litter
While you can’t throw your candy wrappers in your home’s blue bin, there are a few services that can recycle candy wrappers for you. One of them is a company called Rubicon Technologies, which has a program called Trick or Trash. The company sends special collections boxes to businesses, schools, or community organizations where people toss in their wrappers, and the company will retrieve and eventually recycle them.
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Some businesses are opting to host Trick or Trash boxes. Fill More Waste Less is a zero waste store in Cincinnati that allows you to refill products (such as shampoo and conditioner), and it’s hosting one of the boxes this year, reports Cincinnati CityBeat. While a box is free for an organization to host, a home customer has to pay $100 in order to receive one, but Rubicon indicates that the price includes round-trip shipping to and from the facility via a UPS carbon-neutral shipping service.
While this type of service might expand in the future, it’s pretty limited for now. So this Halloween, either look for community recycling solutions, toss your wrappers in the trash, or find a way to make some beautiful abstract art.