Food Waste

Recycling Rules

When food gets in the recycling bin, it’s bad for the process and bad for other recyclable material it can contaminate.

Prevent food from getting in the waste stream:

  • Empty & Clean Rule – Follow the “empty and clean” rule when recycling. It doesn’t have to be spotless, but use your best judgement. Dump any liquids give it a quick rinse and swirl if any food is left — the cleaner the better. You can recycle plastic bottles, tubs and jugs, glass bottles and jars, paper, cardboard, and metal cans. You can also recycle aluminum baking trays- but they MUST be clean of food! See the full yes list here.
  • Scrape your Containers – If you can’t rinse your containers, scrape them out instead. If there’s enough peanut butter left to make a sandwich – please keep it out.
  • Compost Scraps – Start a compost pile for your kitchen scraps and spoiled leftovers. When you avoid the garbage, you prevent methane from being produced in the decomposition process, which is a highly potent greenhouse gas. Check out this handy guide from the City of Sioux Falls on how to start your own backyard compost.
  • Love your Leftovers – Think ahead and plan meals for any unused food. Check out this list of creative dishes! You can also freeze leftovers, check out this guide on how to store and freeze food to prevent waste.
  • Use Your Nose – The sell by, use by, and best before dates often refer to when food is freshest, not when it is safe to eat. These dates are actually used for stock-control at the grocery store, not so much for our health. Use your own judgement to determine if food items have passed their consumption point.
  • Donate Food – Organizations like Feeding South Dakota are happy to accept your unspoiled perishable food or nonperishable food for their guests. Check out their website to find donation locations.

Reduce food waste before it’s made:

  • Plan your Meal Carefully – Do a headcount and plan your menu before your meals. This will prevent over-purchasing which will save your wallet and prevent over-cooking to reduce your food waste.
  • Avoid Special Ingredients – Special holiday recipes may call for specific ingredients that will only be used for one dish (herbs, cream, veggies, etc). If you don’t have a plan to use the remainder of the special item, it can lead to waste. If possible, make a plan to use up the remaining item for a 2nd dish, or avoid it in the first place.
  • Practice Portion Control – We are all guilty of over-eating at the holidays, and usually our eyes are bigger than our stomachs. Using smaller plates for guests will encourage people to take less on their first round which will prevent wasted food, they can always go back for seconds!


Check out our Where Do I Take This Tool for a complete list of where to take odd items for proper recycling or disposal. If what you’re looking for is not on the list, ask us! We’ll help you find the best disposal option in our area.