Tips for a Low-Waste Barbecue or Picnic

The time has come to fire up the pit and lather on the sauce! We’ve compiled some helpful tips for a low-waste BBQ or picnic. These tips can be used whether you’re hosting or attending a socially-distanced gathering. Pro tip: place the recycling bin next to the trash can. This helps to avoid unwanted contamination of food and liquid in your recycling.

Setting the Table

Plastic and styrofoam are the most generated waste at parties, so try and skip the plastic and styrofoam when possible. Purchasing a nice fabric table cloth rather than a flimsy plastic one will last you years of parties to come. A budget friendly option would be to use brown paper as your tablecloth. You can decorate it by labeling your food and drinks. After your party, if it’s free of foods and liquids, you can recycle the brown paper in your Blue Bin.

You can decorate your paper tablecloth and then recycle it in your Blue Bin.

You’ll need some napkins at your gathering to help keep hands clean. Paper towels and napkins are not recyclable because their fibers are too small to be recovered during the recycling process. Choosing cloth towels is the most eco-friendly choice because they can be washed and reused. Pro tip: are you a guest? Bring your own set of reusable utensils with a cloth napkin!

Dinner is Served!

Paper and styrofoam plates are NOT recyclable in your Blue Bin, but there are a few alternatives. Most paper plates cannot be recycled in the Blue Bin because, in addition to them typically being contaminated with food, they have a plastic lining that prevents them from being recyclable. Styrofoam is not accepted in our Blue Bins either and is extremely harmful to our health and the health of the environment.

The best alternative to paper and styrofoam plates are your regular reusable household kitchen plates. If you don’t have enough for your party, ask your guests to BYO (bring your own) plate, along with their utensils. If you want to invest in additional party supplies, pick up some plates while you’re shopping for utensils at the second hand shop.

Dig in!

Plastic utensils do NOT go in the Blue Bin and must go in the trash. But, even in the landfill, they still take hundreds, if not thousands, of years to decompose. It’s estimated that Americans use over 100 MILLION pieces of plastic utensils every DAY! Depending on the size of your party, you can provide silverware for your guests or request that they BYO. Reusable silverware is more sustainable and can be used over and over again. If you’re willing to invest in your hosting supplies, stock up on extra silverware, plates and cups at a local thrift store such as St. Vincent de Paul or Goodwill.

Reusable silverware is more sustainable than one-time-use plasticware.

Drink Up!

No BBQ or picnic is complete without beverages of course. Request that guests bring their own refillable water bottle so you don’t have to buy cases of wasteful bottled water. They can use this cup for water or other drinks that might be available. Most alcoholic beverages come in aluminum cans or glass bottles. It’s important to recycle glass and aluminum because they are endlessly recyclable, which means they can be recycled time and time again without losing much of their chemical properties. Read this article about how many times metals, glass, paper and plastics can be recycled.

Crack open a cool one and Recycle Responsibly! Empty cardboard boxes, glass bottles and metal cans should be recycled in your Blue Bin! Items that do NOT go in your Blue Bin include six-pack rings, beer bottle caps, wine corks and food garnishes.

If you are making lemonade or tea, purchasing these items in bulk are more eco-friendly than individual bottles. Also, purchasing your drinks in containers that can be recycled is a practice of precycling.

**REVISED 2022: Spiral cans/paperboard cans with metal ends are accepted in single stream recycling and CAN be placed in your Blue Bin.

Precycling is when you consider the recyclability of a product before purchasing. By considering the packaging of a material before purchasing it, you are reducing your waste before making waste! Read our blog to learn tips on how you can precycle before you head to the store!

If you want to try and go even further in lowering your waste at your BBQ or picnic, set up a compost bin! Not sure where to start? Our Blog, Why Compost, will help you learn why you should compost and provides resources on how to get started.

Hosting or attending a low-waste BBQ or picnic doesn’t have to be difficult! These small steps of bringing your own (BYO) utensils, being mindful of our packaging and recycling what goes in our Blue Bin will have a big impact on the amount of waste we send to the landfill.

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Thank You Jerry!

We appreciate your years of service at the Operation Brightside Recycling Center.

We wish you happiness on your next adventure!