Is Plastic Silverware Recyclable?

Deanne Lachner

Plastic utensils can be real time savers when it comes to cleanup--just throw them away. But if you're environmentally conscious and wonder if you can recycle those plastic spoons and forks, the answer is yes and no.

Should you use plastic or silverware?


Recycling means reusing something in a way other than the use for which it was intended or making a new product using the materials from a product that has been used.

Recycling Numbers

Plastics are marked with numbers one through seven, indicating their composition and whether they are recyclable or not. One, the most common, is the easiest to recycle; ones are typically soda bottles and other plastic food containers and bottles. Twos--milk jugs, laundry detergent containers, shampoo bottles--are commonly recyclable as well. Threes through sevens are manufactured from types of plastic that are rarely recyclable.

Recyclable Types of Plastic

Most plastics are not recyclable, according to Robert Gammon, the author of "Don't Recycle That Plastic." The types accepted by recycling centers vary by center, but most accept ones and twos only.

Plastic Silverware

Sorting bins make recycling easier.

Plastic utensils--along with CD cases and plastic foam--are marked with a No. 6. It is possible to recycle these, but most places will not accept them because it costs too much to recycle them.

Reuse Plastic Silverware

Wash and reuse plastic utensils rather than throwing them away. Other reuses for plastic utensils include using them for craft projects, plant supports for new seedlings, toys (for kids playing "restaurant"), kids' lunchboxes (make sure they bring the home to wash and reuse) and cutting knives for clay.

Biodegradable Utensils

Biodegradable utensils are made from corn and degrade after about 100 days in a landfill. Find these utensils from companies who manufacture environmentally safe products.