How to Recycle Ice Cream Containers

Recycling industries have developed across the world, allowing more plastics and paper products to be recycled than ever before. Recycling programs do differ greatly depending upon city programs. Ice cream containers are often made out of a thick paperboard that is molded from paper pulp. That pulp is sprayed with a plastic to protect the contents from freezer burn. This polymer coating can contaminate recycling processes. This means that paperboard that is used for refrigerated products is often recyclable, whereas those intended for the freezer are not. Read more to find out how to recycle ice cream containers.


  1. Image titled Recycle Ice Cream Containers Step 1
    Scrub the ice cream tub with a sponge and soapy water to remove all dairy residue. If it is not completely removed, it can gather bacteria and give off odors. Allow the ice cream tub to dry completely before using it or recycling it.
  2. Image titled Make Cleaning Fun Step 1
    Call your local recycling center to see if ice cream cartons are accepted at their location. Many centers do not take ice cream containers.
    • If your ice cream tub is plastic, there is a greater likelihood that it can be recycled. Check for the "recycle" arrows on the bottom of the tub and the resin number. Ask the recycling center if they recycle that type of resin.
  3. Image titled Type Correctly Step 10
    Find the guidelines for your city's composting program, if one is available in your area. Some large cities have city collection of food and food container compost. When the paper pulp composts down, the resin can often be filtered out of the resulting mix.
  4. Image titled Recycle Ice Cream Containers Step 4
    Reuse the ice cream container. Since ice cream tubs are only occasionally recyclable, the next best option is to recycle it for another use. Ice cream tubs can be reused in the following ways:
    • Cover the top and sides of the tub with fabric or wrapping paper. You can apply these materials with either glue sticks or hot glue. Allow the glue to dry and then place tissue paper and a present inside. Place a bow on top or tie a ribbon around the entire container.
    • Fill the bottom with soil and use them as seed start containers. Keep them moist, inside a relatively warm environment. Your seeds will sprout and be ready to plant in the spring.
    • Punch 1/2 inch to 1 inch (1.27 to 2.54 cm) holes in the top. Place a roll of ribbon in the container. Thread the end of the ribbon through the hole in the lid. Place the lid on top to create a ribbon organizer. Any time that you need ribbon, just pull at the end of the ribbon and cut a length. Make sure there is a little extra left at the top so you don't have to open the ribbon organizer each time.
    • Remove the lid and paint the outside with acrylic paint. Use a stencil or stamps to decorate the outside after the paint has dried. Use the container as an organizer for colored pencils, markers or anything else you find lying around the house.
    • Paint the container or cover it in paper. Punch holes in the sides and attach a cord over the top. Knot the cord inside the holes. Give it to a child to use as a pail or purse.


  • Do not place the ice cream container in the recycling, if you think your recycling center will not take it. It will be sorted out, or in some cases, it can contaminate other paper pulp as it is reduced for reuse. In this case, the whole batch will have to be thrown away.

Things You'll Need

  • Soap
  • Water
  • Sponge
  • Fabric
  • Wrapping paper
  • Hot glue gun or glue sticks
  • Ribbons
  • Soil
  • Seeds
  • Paint
  • Stencils or stamps
  • Cord

Article Info

Categories: Reduce Recycle and Reuse