Envision Charlotte + Circular CLT: Collecting food takeout containers and transforming them into PPE!

The Skinny on #5 Takeout Container Plastics: Did you know that most of your plastic takeout containers are not actually recyclable? Nope. You may be putting them in the green bin, but unfortunately that's just likely to send your whole bin to the landfill. We have a better alternative: Bring them, cleaned, to the South End Farmers Market on Saturday mornings. We'll collect them so that Envision Charlotte can process them and turn them into PPE and new plastics. A win all around! 

OK, so what do I do? Collect clean and sticker-free #5 takeout food containers and bring them to the South End Farmers Market each Saturday from 8am - 1pm, starting on March 13th. Until then, start collecting your stash. Envision Charlotte will take care of the rest! 

Want to volunteer at the Farmers Market? We'd love to have you. Sign up here. 

FAQ, from Envision Charlotte:

What plastics are you accepting?  

We are ONLY accepting black and clear clamshell takeout food containers that you get from restaurants. They must be cleaned, without any food, stickers, or labels. On the bottom of the black material, there must be a #5 “PP” recycle triangle.

Takeout Food Containers, huh? That must mean that you accept other food containers such as those that hold berries, salad mix, rotisserie chickens, etc. Right? 

WRONG. Not all plastics are similar. They may be shaped similarly, they may even have the same number in the “recycle triangle,” however chemically their compositions can be very different. A clamshell that holds strawberries for instance can be made from #1 PET, #5 PP, or #6 PS plastic. Within each plastic, they can be blended with different polymers to give them different looks, feel, and functions. All of which will mean different melting points and processing methods when trying to create new products. By only accepting a very specific type of container, we are reducing as many variables as possible in order to ensure the most success in making PPE for frontline workers.

Aside from your program, why are these plastics not accepted in the curbside recycling bins?

Currently in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, the ONLY plastic that you should put in your curbside bin are plastic containers that have a neck. That’s it. No solo cups, no salad containers, no berry clamshells, no plastic clothes hangers, no coffee cup lids, and certainly no plastic bags. Why? Well, the long answer has to deal with global markets not taking our trash anymore–the short answer is simply, “plastic containers with necks are the only plastic where there is still a domestic market to sell to once collected.”

OK, we get it. Follow the rules, recycle right, and don’t assume things. How else can we help? 

You can spread the word, collect takeout containers, and make sure your friends and neighbors know how to recycle right! Although it may be painful to practice, remember: When in doubt, throw it out!

Additionally, we need volunteers every Thursday at the Innovation Barn to process and sort the takeout containers received. We’ve had an overwhelming positive response already and the slots are filling up quickly!