With the holidays in full swing, our family has been eating a lot of green bean casserole with the fried onions on top and refrigerated pop-open rolls. Am I able to recycle those strange cardboard and seemingly metal-lined containers anywhere?


Dear Onion Breath,

So often I get questions about recycling, but this one is actually a great example of how we might consider the first “R” – Reduce. If we truly want to be green with our every action, sometimes we really must consider the packaging, not just the product, before making a purchase.

To my knowledge, these mixed material containers are not welcome in a recycling bin. So, if you want to put the environmental impact first in your favorite holiday recipes, you might need to find replacement ingredients. How about real onions and some homemade croutons for the crunch factor? If you don’t want to make your own rolls, I think you can find the store-bought ones in other packaging that might be recyclable. Or…I saw some beautiful rolls at the farmer’s market last weekend.

Nuts are another popular product that come in these funny little cans, but can easily be bought from the bulk bins in your very own container. What other products come in wasteful packaging when there are alternatives? Share your discoveries in the comments section below and we’ll select one winner to receive a $20 gift certificate for the bulk bins at Pogue’s Run Grocer.

FYI – If crunchy onions are irreplaceable, you CAN recycle the plastic lid!

Piece out,


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  • sparrow

    unfortunately, Whole Foods doesn’t allow you to bring your own containers for bulk bin purchases…maybe they never have but I just learned this. I’d love to check out pogue’s run.

  • http://www.facebook.com/amy.deitchley Amy Deitchley

    Our household gets dry beans instead of buying them canned–most times! If we haven’t planned ahead it’s nice to have a few cans in the pantry (of course they recycle too).

    My bunnies contribute by having me buy a 50# box of their favorite hay instead of getting all the little bags at the pet store. WAY cheaper too :)

  • Brittany

    I think many times fresh veggies and fruits can be in unnecessary packaging. Specifically, bananas in plastic bags and vegetables (like potatoes) with each individual one shrink wrapped comes to mind.

  • M.Williams

    Eating Well magazine has a green bean casserole recipe that makes it’s own version of crunchy onions. It can be found on the website as well.

  • C. A. Burton

    I’ve gotten those short containers with paper on one side and foil on the other. I’m collecting them. In the spring I plan to start seeds and small plants indoors using them. I’ve used a can opener to push drainage holes in the bottom of each. I’ll hold onto the plastic lids or recycle. I’ll also try to wean myself off of the powedred chai that comes in those containers!

  • http://www.facebook.com/sbdiaz Sarah Barnes Diaz

    Individually packed anything (from tiny bags of baby carrots to 100-calorie packs of items) seems wasteful. Reusing glass jars or containers to carry lunch items seems like a much better way to go! I’d love to check out Pogue’s Run! I’ve been by — but haven’t yet been in! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=32311021 Lynette Rowland

    Stop buying “cream of” canned soups and make your own bulk “cream of something soup” shelf-stable mixture and then just use it when you need to. Combine 2 cups of dry milk powder, 3/4 c cornstarch, 1/4 cup of chicken bouillon (I prefer Orrington Farms broth base and seasoning), 2 tbs dried onion flakes, 1 tsp dried basil, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp dried thyme, 1/2 tsp pepper and 2 tbs celery flakes or celery salt. Store it in an airtight container and when you’re ready to use it, just mix 1/3 cup of the mixture with 1 1/4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add in your chicken or mushrooms (if you want) and you have a perfect base for all of your dishes that call for a “cream of …” soup. I use it all of the time!

  • http://www.facebook.com/ellen.mckinney.3 Ellen McKinney

    My cats love those crunchy treats that come in resealable plastic packages that are silvery on the inside. Can those be recycled? Or does anyone sell them in bulk? I have trouble resealing the packages, so I just pour the treats into a jar salvaged from my recycling bag.

  • Sarah Adams

    I have been throwing out the bags that our super yummy locally roasted coffee in–paper with a plastic liner. Sadly, guessing they are not recyclable. Certainly, cooking from scratch takes more time. And it often seem we don’t have any minutes to spare. But we have found the extra time as we move closer to a more sustainable lifestyle. The desire for the superior flavors and closeness to our food sources has prompted our little household to change the way we shop, cook and eat. (And also has resulted in some bonus weight loss too!)

  • dustbunnymom

    I remove the labels from large cylindrical oatmeal boxes with plastic lids, paint the tubes in colors, and use the boxes to store pasta, beans, rice, coffee, and other dry goods. I’ve also got one where I’ve cut a slot in the lid and use it to keep BoxTops for Education and Labels for Education until I accumulate enough to drop off at a nearby school.

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