Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Tricky Recycling Made Easy

Specific recycling and composting options can vary by store due to local regulations and facilities. Just ask any cashier or team member at a Guest Services booth to direct you to the right recycling receptacle.

For a few years, I collected dead batteries. In a plastic container. Without a lid. On my kitchen countertop. Not very smart.

I knew I wasn’t supposed to throw the batteries out — they house all sorts of harmful heavy metals — but I didn’t know what to do with them, exactly. Hide them under my sink? Repurpose them as earrings and sell them on Etsy?

Things changed a few months ago when I noticed the specially marked bins at my local Whole Foods Market store in Austin, Texas and realized that the store would accept my batteries for recycling. The next week, I brought a dozen or so in, deposited them in the cardboard box and did a little happy dance. Finally, I had gotten rid of these blights on my culinary landscape!

Green Mission

Feeling relieved, I did a little more digging and discovered that Whole Foods Market recycles batteries and more as part of its Green Mission program. Green Mission is shorthand for: We’re trying to tread on Earth as gently as we can, and we’re taking measures to encourage that. Recycling is just one of those measures.

Here are a few of the things Whole Foods Market stores across the country accept and responsibly dispose of for you. The specific recycling options can vary by store due to local regulations and facilities, but in general these are available at many of our stores. Just ask any cashier or team member at a Guest Services booth to direct you to the right recycling receptacle.

Batteries: These tiny powerhouses work because they contain heavy metals like lead, mercury, cadmium and lithium. When batteries sit in a landfill, they break down and leak contaminants into our soil and water supply. When batteries are incinerated, that same stuff gets into the air. Drop them off with us and our partners will properly dispose of them.

Cork Recycling

Plastic bags: You might want to sit down when you hear this. The number of bags we humans use worldwide in the course of a year is (drumroll, please): one trillion. Next, consider the number of years it takes most plastic bags to break down: 1,000 years. Fun fact: recycled plastic bags often wind up in composite wood and deck furniture. Recycle those bags and better yet, bring your reusables.

Cork: The little doodads that stop up your wine bottle come from the cork forests of the Mediterranean, which span about 6.6 million acres from Italy to Tunisia. Little known is that these cork forests host a level of biodiversity topped only by the Amazon forest region. Pretty amazing!

Whole Foods Market partners with an organization called Cork Reharvest in its cork recycling effort, and it also helps Cork Reharvest preserve the cork forests of Europe.

Preserve Gimme 5Brita filters, yogurt cups and other #5 plastics: Add this to the list of stuff I didn’t know. Many municipalities don’t accept #5 plastics in their community recycling program. But thanks to Preserve’s Gimme 5 program you can drop off these plastics at Whole Foods Market stores. Preserve then uses the recycled material to create their toothbrushes, razors, food storage containers and more. Essentially closing the loop. Cool! 

What do you recycle at your local Whole Foods Market store?

Leave a reply

To provide feedback or ask a question about our company, a store or a product, please visit our Customer Service page.

For more information about posting comments to our blog, please see our Comment Posting Guidelines.

54 comments

Comments

j.J. says …

Cork harvesting does not hurt the cork trees. In fact, it is like many fruit trees, if there is no commercial need to harvest the cork, the trees are removed for something more "profitable", with less biodiversity. The point of cork recycling is to create demand for cork in new industries. Also, choose wines closed with natural corks for a lower carbon footprint. From the Cork Forest Conservation Alliance website: Q. Doesn't recycling the cork here reduce the need for cork from the Mediterranean forests? A. No, if fact it helps to promote the use of cork, for products and industries that were not using cork before. The cork that is collected by Cork ReHarvest does not go back into wine bottles; it is ground up and used for other products. By increasing the awareness of the value and usefulness of cork, we hope to be creating greater demand.

Karen S. N. says …

Bring Wholefoods supermarket to Brick New Jersey

a says …

I would love it if you'd take CFL bulbs. I appreciate that I can recycle the Brita filters.

Amie says …

One of my local Whole Foods has a cell phone recycling bin.

Mlyn says …

anyone know of recycling for light bulbs -- both filament and compact fluorescent? or LED? or halogen? I think that covers all types . . ..

Claudia says …

I take my Bitta filters and cork to Whole Foods. My local garbage company picks up batteries and cooking oil. I have taken CFL lights and batteries to Orchard Supply Hardware as well. Those asking about light bulbs might check with their local hardware store, the often take those items.

Stephanie says …

I even take my rubberbands back to Whole Foods. They accept them at the service counter at my store in Washington DC.

TML says …

I'm curious how I might recycle the Steel Cut Oats Whole Foods store brand container? It contains metal, is this aluminum? Thank you

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@TML - I checked with our Private Label team and there is aluminum in the container but unfortunately it's not recyclable.

Shey says …

It is great to see WFM providing this service, especially in areas where it is difficult or impossible to find a convenient place to properly dispose of these things. With that said, it will be even better to see more support for battery recycling from cities, and more companies that produce and sell things like batteries and CFL's practicing "extended producer responsibility" instead of externalizing those disposal costs.

Pat says …

I love Whole Foods, and it really sucks that the closest Whole Foods is an hour away in each direction. Come on Whole Foods... Open up a store in Redlands or Yucaipa, California. Yesterday, I had to take the long way home from my brother's place who lives in South Long Beach to stop by Whole Foods and get a few things that were not perishable. i would have bought a lot more items if you were closer. I know a lot of people who live in this area who feel the same way. :)

Linda Oftedal says …

We have noticed that most of the food containers for fruit, etc. @ Whole Foods are #1 or #2 plastic. Our county, Santa Fe, only takes these plastics in bottle or jug shapes. Why is that, what is the difference? Is there some place that will take these food storage containers?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@LINDA - That's very odd that the plastic recycling is specific to shape...I have never heard of that! I would suggest seeing if your city has a 3rd party recycling center that you could take the items to if the city will not recycle them.

Peg says …

My mother collects #5 medicine bottles from her retirement community to turn into WF. She takes the labels off . Not just the info but every bit. Does she need to thoroughly clean them or is removing the personal data sufficient ?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@PEG - Rinsing out the bottles would be great but the recycling facility will also wash them.

Maday Fernandez says …

Hi, I wanted to know how much you pay for recycling #5 plastic bottles?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@MADAY - We do not have an overall number for our recycling costs since it's handled throughout each region. Some cities recycling programs now accept #5 plastics in their overall recycling pickup.

Lisa says …

Home Depot recycles dead CFL bulbs in all their stores. There's usually a bright orange (of course) box near the service desk where you can drop them off. More information: http://ow.ly/AfgAb (scroll down to the "Our Committment to the Environment" heading, about 2/3 of the way down the page).

Ronna Johnson says …

Perhaps you can help me with a school project at Jemtegaard Middle School for some of our life skills students. If we have them collect and clean bottle caps (#5) for recycling, are you able to accept a large quantity at the Fisher's Landing store on Mill Plain? Where would we deliver them for recycling? Is there a limit to the quantity you accept or any other restrictions we should know about? Thank you. Ronna Johnson

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@RONNA - This sounds great! Our exact recycling processes will differ between stores. Check with one of the stores directly to see if they in fact accept #5 plastics and if so, they can let you know where to drop them in the store!

FLJ says …

What kind of plastics (resins and types (foil, etc etc ) are accepted in the "plastics" recycling bin af WF ? is it just for plastic bags?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@FLJ - I would suggest checking with your local store since some of our recycling programs can differ. Typically for general plastic recycling, most items will be numbered on the bottom of the container with a 1-7 (sometimes the numbers go higher). Most stores will accept #'s 1-5 but like I said, it can differ. Check with the store as they will be happy to let you know.

Marge Teilhaber says …

The Edgewater, NJ Whole Foods stopped accepting batteries and cork. Anyone know why or where I can bring my stuff?

Tim dugan says …

It's this all whole foods or some? I don't think they have it in Houston?

Lucy says …

Dear Whole Foods Official, At 23rd & Wilshire, can I recycle light bulbs. If yes, can I bring any type of bulbs? Which parking level is the bin on? Thank you very much. Lucy

sheri Albert says …

I have been taking bottle caps to Avada for a long time and they just told me they were not collecting them any more. I will now bring them to you Thanks Sheri

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@LUCY - I called the store and they do! You can drop them off at the customer service desk in the store.

Dee Jensen says …

Many thanks to WF for providing me with a local alternative site instead of having to drive miles to the independent recycling depot; our neighborhood curbside options are lame at best. Our contracted refuse company accepts plastic by shape only [as others have mentioned]. I imagine this contributes to many plastics going to the land fill; I had much better curbside services when I lived in California.

Kate says …

Hello: what are the rules on recycling stretch plastics? Does it have to have a recycle symbol/number on it in order to recycle? I have bags that have no number printed on them, and also bubble wrap and bags from dry cleaning. Are those eligible to go in the stretch plastics bin too? Thanks!

Florence Sheffer says …

Read this blog and packed up my batteries, went to Whole Foods on Yulupa in Santa Rosa, and learned that Whole Foods (ALL STORES) no longer provides this community service. I was disgusted, which is something I feel regularly these days, sad, because I have been a promoter and defender of WF for 20 years. Even own a little stock in the company, but wouldn't buy more today. At minimum, you should update your online info to reflect that you no longer .

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@KATE - If you plan to recycle this in your city's recycling program I would contact your city directly. Otherwise, the store will be happy to speak with you in store about the plastics.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@FLORENCE - I'm so sorry about that. Since this is a little older post, some of our stores do not participate in this any longer. I spoke with the store and they mentioned that they did post signs when the program was going away a few months ago. My apologies!

Buddy Schmidt says …

Whole Food Market recycles AA batteries? Not at The Fairway location in Jenkintown, PA. Customer service had no idea what I was talking about. Then a cashier chimed in "try the Plymouth Meeting location."

Julie List says …

I am so appreciative of the fact that Whole Foods recycles and I take all my #5 plastics into Whole Foods and my cork, as well! I am looking for some place to recycle my #6 plastics, and was wondering if Whole Foods may start recycling them as well. Some of the yogurt containers and other containers are #6's and our curbside recycling will not take any plastic except the bottle form shape, unfortunately. Please consider recycling the #6 plastic if possible! Thanks for your Great RECYCLING EFFORTS! I think Whole Foods is a wonderful place! Julie List

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@BUDDY - So sorry to hear that, were you able to speak with anyone in leadership at the store?

jaime says …

I have a bag full of plastic caps (those used in plastic water bottles) that i want to recycle, Those Whole foods in Miami fl recycle them?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@JAIME - It will differ between stores so I would suggest reaching out to the exact store you shop with in Miami to see what they recycle.

Christina says …

What about milk cartons/ juice boxes? Can I recycle them at Whole Foods?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@CHRISTINA - The options for recycling will differ a little between stores. I would suggest calling your local store directly to see what they accept.

Teri Matthews says …

Thank you, Whole Foods. I recycle bottle caps. I have been bringing them to Aveda salons but they said they were phasing it out. More people should recycle caps but it doesn't seem to be a popular thing to do. They don't get recycled otherwise and they are the biggest plastic trash item that is not on the recycling radar.

Arbella says …

Where can the paper containers used at the hot and salad bars be recycled? The city recycling doesn't take food-contaminated containers. I never understood why some places such as WF and our local co-op switched to paper when the previous plastic containers could at least be recycled.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@ARBELLA - Most of the salad bar containers are meant to be composted, which you should find receptacles at your local store. You can check with your store to see if you can use containers from the chef's case to see if they can give you some of the plastic containers that are recyclable.

stacy crawford says …

Are the green rubber bands earth friendly? Can I bring back the rubber bands to whole foods?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@STACY - I'm not sure if the rubber bands are compostable but I'm sure the store would be happy to recycle them in the store for you to be reused. Just give your local store a call to find out before you head over.

connie says …

Hello, I live in New Jersey and I would like to know where I can drop off the bottle caps I have been collecting for a quite while. Thanks for your response. Connie

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@CONNIE - Recycling can differ between stores so check with your local NJ store directly before heading over. You can find a list of stores at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/list

Jennifer Dwight says …

Is Whole Foods participating in CD/DVD recycling?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@JENNIFER - This will differ between stores. Check with your local store to see if they accept these items!

Lynn C says …

I'm wondering if the plastic packaging for the 365 Everyday nut products is recyclable...it's not marked with any symbol.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@LYNN - No, the bags are not recyclable at this time.

Pages