Part of our mission statement at Publix is to be intolerant of waste, and to be involved as responsible citizens in our communities. To stay true to this mission, we have created initiatives such as teaching our front-service clerks on proper bagging techniques, implementing bag reduction goals for every store and establishing campaigns to encourage the use of reusable bags for our customers. Did you know that when you purchase a reusable bag, 10 cents of the sale goes to support sustainability projects in local communities? One sustainability initiative we’re most proud of is our effort to help communities easily recycle plastic, paper and foam by using the bins located outside our stores.

One question we receive a lot: What specific items can we place in the bins? With updated signage, we’ve made it easy to identify the types of items that we accept and those that we do not.

Plastic: Only Empty, Clean & Dry Items

Includes: Soft plastics (#2, #4), plastic bags, product overwrap, pharmacy bags, dry cleaning bags.

Does not include hard plastics: drinking bottles, rigid containers, clamshells, jugs, any item containing food.

Specific examples of plastics that can be recycled also include plastic packaging from toilet paper, napkins, paper towels, overwrap from shipping cases, Ziploc and other re-sealable bags (without the zipper), bread and produce bags, cereal bags (not the ones that come in a box), newspaper sleeves, ice bags, salt bags, wood-pellet bags, bubble wrap, air pillows, and plastic wrap.

Paper: Only Empty, Clean & Dry Items

Includes: Paper bags, newspapers, Publix Aprons® recipe cards, ad inserts.

Does not include: Fast food bags with food, cups, hardcover books.

Foam: Only Empty, Clean & Dry Items

Includes: Foam egg cartons, clean foam take-out trays, clean foam cups.

Does not include: Paper or plastic egg cartons, take-out trays with food, cups with lids and straws, packing peanuts.

Now that you know what you can recycle in our bins, you might be wondering where that material goes and what happens to it. Our sustainability team shared more information about this process.

The recyclables that customers bring back to our stores are loaded on our trucks and sent to our return centers. When they arrive there, they are co-mingled with similar recyclables. From there, our recyclers pick up the material, which is then processed and made into other items. Some of these items include:

  • Low-maintenance fencing
  • Composite deck boards
  • Building and construction products
  • New plastic bags

Do you know about all the efforts Publix takes to be sustainable? Learn more here.


Matthew L.

Written by

Matthew started with Publix in 2009. After working his way up to a Publix Manager, Matthew decided to make a change from retail and pursue his passion for writing. Matthew enjoys hearing stories from the people he's writing about and loves the Publix culture. Outside of work, Matthew enjoys spending time with his wife, son and their dog. They love to explore all that Central Florida has to offer.

40 Comments on “How to Recycle at Publix

  1. Gregg

    I read your list of acceptable/not acceptable items and have two questions:
    1. Under Plastic you do not accept bubble lined envelopes. I get these all the time from Amazon. I am curious why they are not acceptable. Using the how2reclycle label it is just called “plastic bag”.

    2. It says you do not accept “drinking bottles”. Do you mean like plastic coke bottles and all the bottles people buy for water?

    Thank you for what you do. I wish everything was recyclable.

    Ft. Myers

      1. Kaitlynn R.Kaitlynn R.

        Hi there Brett. At this time we are unable to accept chip bags in our recycling bins. We do allow for bubble wrap to be recycled in our bins and request the bubbles be popped prior to placing in our containers.

    1. Matthew L.Matthew L.

      Hi Sudheesh, a list of plastic recyclable items include: Soft plastics (#2, #4), plastic bags, product overwrap, pharmacy bags, and dry cleaning bags.

  2. Bonnie

    Good morning! I was sorry to hear that Publix no longer recycles the medicine vials. Here’s my question. The amber bottle is clearly marked with recycle code “1”. If there is a recycle code on the lid, I did not find it. Would you please let me know if it is recyclable and if so, what the recycle code is? I want to do as much as I can to reduce my footprint on the planet! Thanks in advance!

  3. William

    Would Public consider an aluminum can recycle drop-off? They’re surprisingly hard to find in Orlando, and many neighborhood recycle programs only take cardboard these days.

    Supermarkets in states with the 5¢/10¢ deposit program have aluminum can drop-offs all over. I’ve even seen some gas stations in Orlando with small aluminum can drop-off boxes, but it would be nice to have a one-stop recycle destination like Publix, who likely could implement larger scale aluminum can drop boxes.

  4. Hiroshi

    Hello. Hope you’re doing well.

    I consume a lot of grapes and cherries, and almost all come in #5 plastic soft film packaging. Is that acceptable at Publix for recycling?

    Thank you.

    All the best,

    1. Austin B.Austin B.

      Hi James. Publix Pharmacy has discontinued the prescription bottle recycling program for customer amber vials. We encourage you to check with your local recycling programs to determine if they accept amber prescription vials. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

      1. Chelsea

        There are significant problems with municipalities recycling the amber bottles because of size; general rule of thumb is that a sorting machine can’t handle products smaller than the size of an adult fist. And that’s not just true for small towns — it’s even true here in Tampa. Your bottles are, actually, #1 plastic (unlike most pill bottles which are impossible-to-recycle #5) so it seems like Publix put effort into making them recyclable. I wish they’d reconsider the discontinuation of the recycling program once COVID is over; I personally go through a LOT of bottles each year that could be diverted from landfills. (And as #1 plastic, it’s likely profitable to sell to boot!)

    2. Bonnie

      Just thought of another question. When you say Publix takes bubble wrap to recycle, does that also include the bubble type mailers commonly used by amazon? Thanks again. (I did see something about removing paper labels.)

        1. Patrick

          I believe Bonnie was referring to the plastic mailing envelopes that contain bubble wrap. They are used a lot by Amazon, and are marked PLASTIC BAG with Store Drop-off written within the recycling symbol. Above the recycling symbol it also says Remove Paper Label Before Recycling. Apparently, Amazon thinks some stores can recycle these with plastic bags.

          I have tons of these and would love to recycle them at Publix!

          Thank you!

          1. Kaitlynn R.Kaitlynn R.

            Hi Patrick! We do not accept the plastic mailing envelopes that contain bubble wrap inside. We appreciate you reaching out to us.

    1. Austin B.Austin B.

      Hi Bill! After the store front bins are filled, our associates place the materials in our backroom. The recyclables are loaded onto the back of our trailers and sent back to our return centers. Once in our return center, recyclables are further sorted and baled with like materials. These bales of recyclables are then held for pick up by our recycler where they are taken back to their facility to be processed into plastic pellets.

    1. Karleigh W.Karleigh W.

      Hi Patrick! There is unfortunately not a printed version of this for us to distribute, but we will share this great idea with the appropriate teams. Thanks for reaching out!

  5. Robin

    Great information on Publix recycling. I do have a question though. When “soft plastics – #2 or #4 – are mentioned, does that include the soft (bendable) lids from various products that are marked with #2 or #4?

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