Can You Recycle Plastic Spoons for Ice Cream?

This is Post number 1 in my series, the Love Conversation About Conservation (Loco About Conservation for short). The idea is that you tell me what you love, and I will tell you how to green it. Here is Bev’s question:

Q. I love ice cream. When I buy a cup somewhere, I get a plastic spoon for it. What’s the best way to recycle that spoon and all the other plastic cutlery I’ve been saving?

A. The short answer: I don’t know of a way to recycle those ice cream spoons. You need to avoid using them. See below.

A. The long answer: It might be possible to interest Terracycle in starting a recycling program for those small, clear-pastel spoons that ice cream shops hand out with their cups. Terracycle’s mission is to de-junk the world.

But for now, here are two reasons those spoons are difficult to recycle.

  1. I looked at the symbols embossed on the spoons I had saved, and although there is a recycling symbol on there, it doesn’t enclose a number. So there’s no way to know what kind of plastic those spoons contain. Perhaps it’s a mix. Plastic mixes cannot be melted into a usable product. You might be able to shred them and then remake the shredded plastic into something new.
  2. The spoons are so small that if you did put them in your single-stream recycling, they would fall through the little holes on the conveyor belts at the processing plant. That would contaminate other materials.

A. Other possibilities: At first I thought of the Preserve’s Gimme 5 program, which has placed recycling bins for #5 plastics in some Whole Foods stores. You could try to recycle some of your plastic flatware in one of those bins. But I don’t know if the ice cream spoons are #5 plastic.

I checked two sources, Eco-Cycle’s A-Z Recycling Guide and KCMO’s RecycleSpot, and neither had any suggestions. (RecycleSpot’s site was having technical problems when I looked.)

So, Bev, the best thing you can do is avoid using plastic flatware when you go out for ice cream. At a minimum, you would have to carry a bamboo spork with you. But you could also buy a To-Go Ware utensil set at Whole Foods or online.

Utensils 20160706_213434 (1)

Stay alert! Sometimes those clerks slip the spoons into the ice cream so fast, you can’t stop them. If you tell them to take them out, they will simply throw them away. At that point you might as well take the spoons home and add them to your collection. Until you find some crafty person to upcycle them, that is. Just don’t ask me to do that. I’m good at recycling but not at crafts.