Try our new, hard-to-recycle containers


I’ve been purchasing the same brand of nonfat yogurt for years. Since the small containers are usually cheaper per ounce than the bulk size, I typically get several dozen of the little containers delivered every month. With so much plastic involved, I always try to wash out the containers and drop them in the recycling bin. But some recent changes have made that a lot harder to do.

For whatever reason, the manufacturer replaced the iconic, round container with an ugly rectangular one. The new design presents several challenges from a recycling point of view:

– The bottom of the container has a strange pattern imprinted into it, which creates crevices for the yogurt to get stuck in and makes rinsing out the container a chore.

– The empty containers can’t be neatly stacked, which means that even a dozen empty ones take up a lot of space.

– The edges of the containers seem sharper than before, increasing the chance that they could tear through a bag while en route to the recycling center.

Taken together, these changes to the container design mean that consumers are less likely to take the time to recycle the product, while also posing challenges for the storage and transport of the empty containers. And since the new design doesn’t appear to offer any meaningful benefits in terms of branding, product quality, or other attributes, I have no idea what motivated the manufacturer to make these changes.

Regardless of which factors are driving a redesign, the takeaway here is the same. If you’re reworking a container or other package that consumers are supposed to recycle, then be sure that the new design is just as easy to clean, store, and transport for recycling purposes as the old design was. That way, you’ll continue making it easy for people to perform their part of the recycling process, rather than coming across as a clueless company that has no idea about how recycling works from the customer’s point of view.