Can You Recycle Ice Cream Containers

Can You Recycle Ice Cream Cartons?

It is estimated at the average American eats about 23 pounds of ice cream every year. Whether it’s the classic chocolate or something more festive like birthday cake, people everywhere love eating ice cream year-round.

5 Reasons To Recycle
5 Reasons To Recycle

With ice cream being such a popular dessert choice, it is no shock that ice cream leads to a lot of waste every year. For this fact, many people believe that they should toss their ice cream cartons in the recycling bin to help out with the issue.

Ice cream containers are not universally accepted by recycling programs because they’re made of wet-strength paperboard. They include a polyethylene plastic lining which makes them incompatible with the paper recycling process. Put them in the trash unless your program takes frozen food containers.

To find out more about whether or not you can recycle ice cream cartons, read on. In this article, we thoroughly answer whether or not you can recycle ice cream cartons and what you should do in either case.

Let’s get started.

Short Answer: It Depends

Unlike other items, there is really no straightforward answer about whether or not you can recycle ice cream cartons. Whether or not you can recycle this material depends exclusively on where you live. Some cities and counties accept ice cream cartons for recycling, while others do not.

To make the matter even more difficult, there is no way to predict whether or not your city’s facility accepts ice cream cartons. The only thing you can do is call your facility and ask outright, or you can look at what is accepted by your city online.

If ice cream cartons and other frozen food boxes are listed by name by your recycling facility, then you are free to recycle these containers. However, if neither of these options is listed by name, you should toss your ice cream cartons in the garbage bin instead.

Are Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Cartons Recyclable?

Ben and Jerry’s ice cream containers are not recyclable as a part of normal recycling programs. They are coated with single use plastics that makes them unable to be recycled with other paper or plastic products.

Why Many Places Don’t Accept Ice Cream Cartons

It’s pretty much common knowledge that ice cream cartons have a base made of paperboard. Because of this fact, many people assume that they can recycle ice cream cartons with other paper. Since ice cream cartons are designed to withstand the temperatures within a freezer, they are not like normal paperboard, though, which is why they can’t always be recycled.

Ice cream cartons are made out of a wet strength paper board. This material includes a polyethylene plastic lining. This lining allows the ice cream container to remain intact and not break down while it is within the freezer. Other frozen food boxes also have this liner, as well as beer and soda carriers.

In order to recycle paperboard and other types of paper, recycling facilities add water to the paper so it can turn into pulp. The problem with ice cream cartons and other freezer food containers is that the polyethylene lining means that these papers are more resistant to the pulping process. Since ice cream containers cannot be turned into pulp easily, many facilities simply do not accept them.

Ice Cream Container

What To Do If You Can’t Recycle Ice Cream Cartons

Unfortunately, the best thing to do if your city does not accept ice cream cartons is to simply throw them out. Though this is annoying for those who recycle loyally, there really is no other option.

Of course, you can try to think of other uses for the container. For example, you might want to clean out the container and use it to make arts and crafts with your children. You may also want to use it to store other food in the freezer. Still, you will eventually need to throw away the material.

Are Plastic Ice Cream Tubs Recyclable?

As a general rule, plastic ice cream containers should be placed in your curbside recycling bin. Remove any non-plastic items from the ice cream tub prior to putting them in the bin. Plastic ice cream tubs can also be brought directly to your local recycling center.

What To Do If You Can Recycle Ice Cream Cartons

Since ice cream cartons are technically recyclable, some cities do accept them in the recycling facilities. These cities will outright list frozen food boxes or ice cream containers as objects that can be recycled. You should be able to find out this information online or by calling the facility.

Unlike other paper products, you need to take some extra steps before tossing your ice cream container in the recycling bin. The reason for this is that food will contaminate your recyclables, causing them to go straight into the landfill.

Before putting your ice cream containers in the recycling bin, make sure all food residue is out of the container. This includes rinsing the container out so that there is no residue, even a little bit on the sides. Once the container is free of any residue, you can put it with the recyclables.

What About Other Containers With Polyethylene Linings?

As we mentioned before, other frozen food containers also have the same polyethylene lining as ice cream containers. For this reason, everything that we discussed about ice cream containers applies to other frozen food containers as well.

If your local facility lists frozen food containers or ice cream containers as approve recycling objects, you can recycle frozen food containers. If these items are not outright listed, you need to throw them away.

Additionally, make sure frozen food containers are free of any food residue. Once again, the food residue will contaminate the recycling facility, meaning that your recyclables will get thrown away and not recycled.

Beer and drink containers often have the same polyethylene lining so that they do not rip in the case that the drinks should spill. Take the same precaution with these containers as you do frozen food and ice cream containers.


Even though ice cream is a favorite among nearly everyone, ice cream containers are not accepted at all recycling facilities. Because of the polyethylene lining, many facilities cannot turn ice cream cartons and other polyethylene-lined containers into paper pulp.

To find out if your facility accepts ice cream cartons, you need to look online or call the facility. There is no way to predict which cities accept ice cream cartons and which do not. Suppose your facility accepts ice cream cartons, great. If they don’t, you simply have to throw them away.