Politics of the Plate: Yogurt without Guilt

A new initiative allows consumers to recycle yogurt containers—and is expected to keep one million pounds of trash out of landfills this year.
yogurt containers

You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone more sensitive to the environment than my colleague Christy Harrison, who edits this site. But she confesses to one lapse: “I eat a lot of yogurt [organic, I’ll bet] and always feel horrible about having to throw out the containers.”

She has reason to feel a bit queasy. Yogurt, sour cream, ice cream, cottage cheese, cream cheese, hummus, and hundreds of other products are packaged in #5 polypropylene plastic. The stuff may be everywhere, but few communities include #5 plastic in their recycling programs. And some that do merely export it to Asia, where it is burnt as a fuel to produce power (and pollution).

Help is at hand. Last week, four green-minded companies banded together to give folks like Harrison a convenient location to drop off their used #5 containers. Preserve, a company that sells a line of products (including toothbrushes and razors) made from recycled plastic, has joined forces with Stonyfield Farm, a maker of organic yogurt; Organic Valley, a farmer-owned dairy cooperative; and Whole Foods Market in what is being billed as the “Preserve Gimme 5” program. Bins are now available at some Whole Foods locations.

This year, the program is expected to keep one million pounds of #5 out of landfills—and out of the atmosphere.

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