The Best Ways to Recycle Your Meal Delivery Kit Packaging

Are you looking at the wide variety of meal kit delivery services out there and would like to use one? And are you worried about the amount of waste this could generate?

After all, these services ship weekly packages containing all the ingredients you’ll need to prepare your meals. That means you’ll be getting weekly boxes containing baggies with food, all insulated, in one way or another, so that it doesn’t spoil in transit.

All of that material can add up, especially in the long run. One way to deal with that is to recycle everything. This article should help you find the best ways to recycle your meal delivery packaging.

We’ll provide you with detailed information about each material so that you can know what needs to be done. Alongside that, we’ll also check out some of the more popular services to see how they dealt with this problem.

image of different meal pack

What You Need to Know About Meal Kit Packaging

One of the main drawbacks of meal kits is the amount of waste they produce. While you can recycle most of those, the quantity itself is still staggering, especially when you consider that most of these services ship such a package weekly.

The box itself is the least of a problem. Inside it, you’ll find insulating layers that need to keep the contents refreshed during transit. Within that layer is the food itself. With most services, they are divided by recipes, which means that they are individually packed. And even if they aren’t sorted by recipes, you’ll still have plenty of nylon or paper baggies to deal with.

How to Recycle Your Meal Delivery Kit Packaging

Styrofoam

While Styrofoam isn’t as widely used as it was, you can still find services that insulate their boxes with it. It is more prevalent among cheaper options, so if you’re worried about what materials they use, you should either check their FAQ section or send them an e-mail.

This material is problematic due to its difficult nature. It is not easily recyclable as the center would need to have an Expanded Polystyrene recycling program, which not many do. If you receive a package with it, you might have to drop the Styrofoam off at a drop-off site or find a mail-in recycling service.

Plastic

This mostly refers to the plastic baggies that keep your ingredients separated. You could also encounter plastic trays, but those should be rare as they’re more frequently found with prepared meals.

Recycling plastic is mostly straightforward. You simply need to take it to your local recycling center or drop off point. It is more manageable because you can add the baggies to your own plastic garbage. You can also reuse them to store your food in the fridge.

Cardboard Box

This is probably the easiest material to recycle. All you need to do is cut it up in smaller pieces so that it’s easier to transport to your local recycling center. Most will accept it without problems, but you should be aware that they might reject your cardboard if it got wet.

So, if your package sat out in the rain before you got home, you might need to add it to your regular trash as recycling likely won’t be an option.

image of Cardboard pack

Fibrous/Cotton Insulation

Some services in the higher price-range frequently use cotton or similar fibrous materials as insulation. They will still keep your ingredients refreshed during transport, but they are much easier to manage and recycle.

Most recycling centers should accept them without a problem, and if they don’t, the material is easily compostable, so you should be able to make some use of it. The main disadvantage is its price, though. That’s why it’s mostly used by services on the higher end of the spectrum.

Ice Packs

Each service offers a different solution to keep the contents fresh. Some will use a gel, others will use ice packages, while some will pack dry ice. How you deal with these largely depends on the materials used.

Dry ice should evaporate within a few days, so it shouldn’t be a problem. As for gel and ice, you’ll need to open the package and pour the contents down the drain. You can also run into packs that are not recyclable and are not safe to pour down the drain. You can keep those around your fridge to help keep your food fresh during road trips.

Plastic Clamshells, Jars, and Bottles

While these aren’t as frequent, they can still occasionally pop up, and it might be helpful to know what to do with them. In most cases, you can simply add them to your plastic trash and take them to your local recycling center.

You might need to pay attention to the plastic resin number, the number ranging from 1 to 7 in a triangle surrounded by arrows that are usually found on these types of containers. The lower it is, the easier it is to recycle.

Brown Bags

These are sometimes used instead of plastic to keep your ingredients separate. If you pack your own lunch, you might simply reuse them, and if you can’t or won’t do that, they’re easily recyclable. Simply add them to your paper pile.

You should note, however, that if the brown bag is stained by the food, it is usually not recyclable. You’ll need to toss it with your regular garbage instead.

image of food for work

Meal Kits with Recyclable Packaging

Terra’s Kitchen

This service differentiates itself from its competition by completely removing traditional packaging materials. Instead, they deliver your food in so-called vessels, which store everything in drawers, neatly dividing the ingredients.

Once you remove all the food and place it in your fridge, you simply place the empty vessel outside your door, and it will be taken away for another use. That way, you’ll be completely free of any additional garbage.

Sun Basket

Sun Basket’s packaging is fully recyclable, including everything from the box to the insulation. In fact, they use a unique method to keep the contents fresh during transport – instead of Styrofoam or expensive cotton fibers, they use old newspapers wrapped inside craft paper to insulate the box.

Furthermore, their icepacks are made with only water, without any other additives. That way, you can empty them without problem and recycle the package.

Find out more in our full review of Sun Basket meal kit delivery service.

Blue Apron

Another innovative way to deal with waste is to send it back to the service. This is Blue Apron’s approach and their way to help reduce the amount of garbage. You simply need to gather all the packaging and send it to them for reuse. There are no additional steps or hidden charges.

That should make things much more manageable if you use their service.

Read more in our Blue Apron full review.

Hello Fresh

As they are the largest meal kit delivery service, they also use fully recyclable packaging. Their insulation is made of paper, similar to Sun Basket’s solution, and their ice packs are filled with nothing but water.

Everything else is also fully recyclable, from the cardboard box to the plastic baggies that contain your ingredients. You can simply add them to your sorted garbage and take them to your local recycling center when it suits your schedule.

Looking to learn more? Go to our full Hello Fresh review here.

Steaming food tray with lid

Frequently Asked Questions

Which meal delivery services have the least amount of packaging?

If the amount of packaging is your concern, you should find a service that has that part returnable. For example, Terra’s Kitchen uses so-called vessels to do that – all of your food is in a large plastic container, sorted in different drawers. Then, when you place all of your food in your fridge, you simply return the vessel for reuse.

Which meal delivery services come with eco-friendly food delivery packaging?

Most of them will have at least partially recyclable packaging. You should be avoiding those that use Styrofoam for insulation, but those aren’t as common as they used to be. In most other cases, all the materials used should be simple to recycle, but Sun’s Basket, Blue Apron, and Hello Fresh have achieved the most in this regard.

Can you donate meal delivery kit packaging?

Most of the materials used can be reused without any issues. You can find a use for the larger boxes, and the plastic baggies can still be used to store food in your fridge. And, with that in mind, you should be able to donate these supplies wherever they’re needed.

Conclusion

Meal kits have a clear advantage – they provide you with just enough ingredients to prepare your food, and in doing that, they dramatically reduce the amount of wasted food. But they do have a significant downside.

They are, after all, a weekly shipment. That means that each week, you’ll get a brand-new box with all of your ingredients. Alongside those, you’ll also receive plenty of packaging which needs to be dealt with.

Fortunately, most of these are easy to manage. It’s easy to recycle plastic and paper, after all. You might find it more troublesome to deal with Styrofoam or gel-based ice packs. But as long as your service doesn’t use those materials, you should be set.