Grilling Green: Tips for Composting and Recycling at Cookouts, Tailgates

Infographic Included
Aug 12, 2014 5:10 PM ET
Campaign: Begin With the Bin
Tips for composting and recycling at cookouts with the "Grill Green" infographic by Begin With the Bin

Americans love cooking out, sunshine, good food and camaraderie. Nearly 80 million Americans—almost 35 percent—indicated that they barbecued at least once a year according to the last U.S. Census, with nearly 55 million claiming to grill at least once a month. And while veggies are on the rise, most grillers are cooking meat.

Summertime means more grilling, as a recent Weber-Stephen Products’ survey found that 25 percent of grillers will host five or more barbecues throughout the season. And with fall comes football season, when countless tailgates and cookouts will crop up weekly across the country.

This means a lot of material going in the garbage. The amount of food waste produced globally each year has drawn the attention of the United Nations and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The U.N. estimates that the world wastes a third of the food it produces annually—that’s 1.3 billion tons, costing $750 billion and impacting the environment—while the EPA estimates that the U.S. generated more than 36 million tons of wasted food in 2012 alone.

You can help by recycling and composting as much as you can. Follow these helpful tips to keeping your cookout green, and find more at

  • Plastics:  Your plastic packaging, plates, cups and utensils may be recyclable. Check with your municipality to be sure, and clean food residue off any items before recycling them.
  • Paper:  ​Do you have damp paper towels or used paper plates? Did you use newspaper as a tablecloth or placemat? Shred and toss them into your composting bin, and they’ll break down—just make sure to keep plastic out.
  • Plastic Bags:  Don’t put plastic bags in your recycling bin! Collect and take them back to your grocery store, where you’ll be able to deposit them for recycling.
  • Bread:  Burger and hot dog buns make great snacks for birds and squirrels, but they also attract unwanted pests quickly. When composting, make sure to bury them. Otherwise, trash them and save what you can for leftover sandwiches.
  • Fruits:  Leftover watermelon, pineapples from grilling, orange and cherry garnishes and fruit salads are a composting feast—toss them in your pile.
  • Vegetables:  Veggies like corn, peppers, artichokes and others—can be especially delicious on a kebob, or even alone. Vegetables—including seeds, peelings, corn husks and toppings—are also compostable, so if you can’t use or finish them in one sitting, toss them in the pile.
  • Meat:  Burgers, sausages, ribs, chicken and more are welcome at the table but not in the compost pile. These decompose slowly, and bones and leftover scraps smell and attract unwelcome pests. Save leftovers and place everything else in a secure garbage bag before tossing in the trash.
  • Condiment Containers:  Your ketchup, mustard, mayo and relish bottles and jars are generally recyclable. Give them a quick rinse when they’re empty and put them in your bin.
  • Bottles and cans:  Water, beer and sodas are guaranteed to show up at your cookout. Set up a separate bin for recycling your beverage containers. Caps can remain on the plastic bottles.f

When cooking out don’t just throw it out—recycle and compost what you can. Let’s Begin with the Bin to keep grilling green!