If you have young kids, chances are, you’ve got some squeeze pouches in your house. While their mess-free convenience, light weight, and packability make them a parents’ dream, knowing how to responsibly dispose of them is not as dreamy.
Surprisingly, there are a few environmental plusses to their existence. Due to their light weight and small size, they’re relatively low-carbon to ship (as compared to traditional glass jars), and they don’t require the energy of refrigeration to keep them shelf-stable in the store. But since their construction relies on multiple materials like plastics, layered films, aluminum, and paperboard, mainstream American recyclers don’t have the systems to properly sort and peel the containers. Alas, into the trash bin they go.
Fortunately, there’s a way to reduce their presence in landfills. Check out these alternatives to tossing them out.
How to recycle plastic squeeze pouches
New Jersey-based TerraCycle has been collecting non-recyclable waste and turning it into new products since 2001. By partnering with more than 100 of the world’s largest brands (like Nestlé, Staples, Bic, and Brita), they’ve found a way to make recycling beneficial to both the environment and the images of multi-billion-dollar corporations.
Send in your empty squeeze pouches (and so many other things you didn’t think were recyclable, like Pringles tubs and toothbrushes) and they will shred, melt and chop the material into hard, rice-sized pellets that can be used in the manufacturing of other plastic items, such as benches and picnic tables.
While you don’t need to rinse the pouches, you do need to squeeze any remaining contents out prior to shipping. If you do choose to wash them out, be sure they’ve dried completely before sending. When you’re ready, create an account, print a shipping label, and drop it off at any UPS location.
How many (and what brands) can I send?
There is no minimum number of pouches that TerraCycle will accept. However, if you send in more than ten pounds-worth, you’re eligible to earn points that, according to their website, can be redeemed for “charitable gifts, product bundles or a payment of $0.01 per point to the non-profit organization or school of your choice.” (Sounds like a great project for a school or non-profit youth group. They even have best practices and art for creating an effective neighborhood collection bin.)
And fear not, HappyBaby, Gerber, or Up & Up brand consumers: While GoGo squeeZ seems to be the anchor brand, in the FAQ on TerraCycle’s website they confirm, “You may collect any brand of waste for this free recycling program.” (They list “healthy snack plastic pouches and caps” in their “accepted waste” flier and a promotional picture includes other brands.)
Plum Organics also has a squeeze pouch cap recycling program that accepts caps from all manufacturers, not just their brand
Or…just make your own
Of course, the other option is to avoid the single-use pouches altogether and go the DIY route. Amazon sells reusable squeeze pouches (with convenient front flaps for refilling). Load up on your favorite jar of apple sauce at Costco, or make some homemade tasty purees (with hidden vegetables, of course), and enjoy the magic of the flexible pouch without any guilt.