Recycling Plastic Clamshells and Bottles, the Similar however Completely different


You’ve most likely seen the #1 recycling image on varied plastic containers if you’re sorting your recycling. These containers are product of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), also called polyester. As a result of PET is powerful, light-weight, and simply molded, it’s a in style materials for packaging a variety of meals and client items.

PET is among the most recyclable plastics. It’s possible that your native recycling program accepts plastic #1 bottles and jugs, however most likely not plastic #1 clamshells, tubs, trays, or lids.

But when plastic #1 bottles and clamshells are each product of PET, why doesn’t your native recycler settle for clamshells?

Similar Plastic, Completely different Manufacturing Course of

Producers use totally different processes to supply various kinds of PET containers. They make clamshells utilizing a course of referred to as thermoforming, and bottles and jugs via a course of referred to as blow molding. These distinct processes end in PET merchandise of various grades, every with particular makes use of.

PET is 100% recyclable it doesn’t matter what grade is. However the PET thermoform containers pose varied recycling challenges.

PET Clamshell Recycling Challenges

A 2016 article by the Nationwide Affiliation for PET Container Assets (NAPCOR) recognized key points with recycling PET thermoform containers reminiscent of plastic clamshells. These containers usually have labels with sturdy adhesives which can be troublesome to take away. They produce extra high-quality particles when processed and have a distinct bulk density than PET bottles, which makes processing clamshells and bottles collectively troublesome.

When plastic clamshells are processed at materials restoration services (MRFs), operators and sorting gear have a tough time differentiating the clamshells from different equally formed containers made of various plastics — and from the extra fascinating PET bottles. So, when the ultimate PET bales are created to be shipped for processing, they’re “contaminated” with the plastic clamshells.

The MRFs need to produce the purest bales of a given materials to get the very best market charge. Within the case of plastic #1, these bales would come with solely bottles and jugs.

The recycling services lose cash by coping with lesser high quality PET plastic when clamshells are combined in with bottles and jugs. In consequence, many recycling applications and MRFs gained’t settle for clamshells for recycling, regardless that they’re product of recyclable PET plastic.

What You Can Do

In case your native recycling program doesn’t settle for plastic clamshells, please remember to preserve them out of your recycling bin. However don’t throw them out — they’re recyclable. Actually, NAPCOR reported that greater than 100 million kilos of PET thermoform materials had been recycled within the U.S. in 2018.

To discover a native recycling answer for plastic clamshells, enter your ZIP code within the Earth911 Recycling Search software.

Concerning the Writer

Derek McKee is an R&D chemist within the coatings trade. Due to his background, he actually likes to coach others about private security and environmental safety. Writing lets him attain extra folks than those in his firm.

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