Instructions for Sorting Waste at Whole Foods

Aaron Gilbreath
6 min readJan 3, 2020
Um, I’m confused. Photo by confused author.

Thank you for eating at Whole Foods. After bussing your table, please help reduce the amount of material that ends up in landfills by sorting garbage into our six separate bins, and by garbage we don’t mean trash. Trash has its own bin. We mean waste, aka, disposable, single-use, post-meal material. This includes:

* original product packaging

* hot food and salad bar takeout containers

* napkins

* waxed paper water cups

* foil and utensils.

* And reusable dishes. We wash them in back. Also, cans, both recyclable and non. Unfortunately, our soy and nut milk Tetra Paks®​ are not recyclable, though their contents are compostable, but rather than being lazy and pouring plant-based beverages into the dry “Compost” bin, we ask that you use the “Drain.” Same basic idea with takeout containers, sort of: contents go in one bin, container goes in another, though only if containers are clean, in which case ignore the signs and put them in the bin marked “Curbside Comingle Recycling.” If they’re dirty, put them in “Landfill.” In other words, if you used the containers as intendedby putting food in them to “takeout” and eat here at the market (ie, to takeaway, as the British say, from the self-serve station, and take to the dining area where you are…



Aaron Gilbreath

Essayist, Journalist, Burritoist. Longreads Editor. Writing: Harper’s, NYT, Slate, Paris Review, VQR, Oxford American, Kenyon Review. 3 nonfiction books.