Takeout Containers (Cardboard)

Put in Garbage Put in Organics Bin

Plant-based (bioplastic) takeout containers are not accepted for recycling. The addition of bioplastic, wax, petroleum plastic, and/or food residue is considered a contaminant in the blue/gray bin. Fiber-based takeout containers may be accepted in your organics container, see below.

Place in Trash Container

  • Bioplastic takeout containers. Looks and feels like plastic, but made from plants.
  • Paper takeout containers with a liner. These have a liner made from bioplastic, petroleum plastic, or wax. The outside looks like paper and the inside has a glossy liner.

Place in Organics Container (if food scraps are allowed)*

  • Fiber-based takeout containers. These containers must be 100% fiber-based and have no liner, coating, or filler made from petroleum plastic, bioplastic, or wax. 

Do the Scratch Test

Shiny cardboard boxes can be recycled, while wax-coated takeout boxes cannot. To identify a wax-coated box, scratch the cardboard and see if the wax comes off. If the wax comes off, throw it out.

No Grease or Food

Cardboard takeout containers cannot be recycled with other cardboard if they are contaminated with food or grease. Food traces can contaminate the recycling process. However, you can tear off the soiled sections and recycle only the clean sections.


Compost Dirty Containers

Soiled cardboard takeout containers can be composted in your backyard. Find out more about how to compost cardboard from Gardening Know How.

Ways to Reduce


Bring Your Own To-Go Container

When dining out, bring a reusable to-go container so that you can bring leftovers home sustainably.

Reusable Packaging For Businesses

Check out Upstream’s catalog of reusable packaging and unpackaging innovators that provide ways for consumers to obtain products, mostly food and beverages, in returnable, reusable, or refillable packaging – or they deliver products to consumers unpackaged altogether.

Did You Know?

The Preferred Takeout Container

Out of all the types of takeout containers — aluminum, cardboard, wax-lined paperboard, plastic and foam — aluminum is the easiest for recycling plants to recycle, while foam is the most difficult.