Video: Can I Recycle That? Flat Plastics

It's complicated.

Video: Can I Recycle That? Flat Plastics


Can you recycle flat plastics like lids, straws, and utensils? Unfortunately, not so much. Watch this video to learn why and explore alternatives.


How to Recycle Flat Plastics


Unfortunately, you can’t recycle lots of the things you use to eat and drink on the go. Lids, straws, and plastic utensils—let’s call them flat plastics—are rarely recyclable. They could be recycled in theory, but machines that sort recyclables are often set up for plastics with 3-D shapes, like containers that hold food, drinks, or household supplies. A 3-D shape is easy to separate as it’s moving down a crowded conveyor belt.


Flat plastic confuses sorting machines as it can look like other types of recyclable material, such as paper. So, even though it is technically recyclable, the general rule is to leave flat plastic out of your recycling bin. Your best bet? Use alternatives to prevent waste before it begins. Bring your own reusable versions. Go without when it’s possible. Or, choose compostables. (Keep those compostables out of the recycle bin too.)


More Recycling Resources


Once you’ve watched the video, check out these fun activities and lessons.


Lesson Plan: Fundamentals of Waste

Help high school students understand why waste management is a critical issue for a sustainable future. This lesson takes about an hour to complete.


Lesson Plan: Something From Nothing & the 3 Rs

This one is for the younger crowd. They’ll learn a new and exciting way to limit the amount of waste they produce by reusing it for something completely different!


Free Digital Slideshow: The Ins and Outs of Recycling

Getting ready to talk to your students about recycling? Need to lead a meeting about bringing recycling to your school? You’ll love this free recycling slideshow! It’s available in PowerPoint or Prezi.


Lesson Plan: The Life Cycle of Recycling

Have you ever considered what happens to an aluminum can after you drop it into the recycling bin? In this science and language arts lesson, students explore the life cycle of recycling.

Can I Recycle That? Flat Plastics

Was this useful?

Learn More

Recycle Rally

Recycle Rally is a free K-12 program that provides rewards and tools to help enhance recycling at your school!

Explore now

Additional Resources

Our comprehensive library of resources was designed to inspire the next generation of green leaders.

Explore now