Recycling Plastic Clamshells and Bottles, the Same but Different

Recycling Plastic Clamshells and Bottles, the Same but Different

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You’ve most likely seen the #1 plastic resin code on varied plastic containers if you’re sorting your recycling. Those containers are product of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), also referred to as polyester. Because PET is powerful, light-weight, and simply molded, it’s a popular material for packaging a variety of meals and shopper items.

PET is among the most recyclable plastics. It’s seemingly that your native recycling program accepts plastic #1 bottles and jugs. However, it might not settle for plastic #1 clamshells, tubs, trays, or lids.

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

Same Plastic, Different Manufacturing Process

Manufacturers use completely different processes to provide 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 lead to PET merchandise of various grades, every with particular makes use of.

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

PET plastic #1 code

PET Clamshell Recycling Challenges

A 2016 article by the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR) recognized key issues with recycling PET thermoform containers comparable to plastic clamshells. These containers typically have labels with sturdy adhesives which are tough to take away. They produce extra superb particles when processed and have a different bulk density than PET bottles. This makes it tough to course of clamshells and bottles collectively.

When plastic clamshells are processed at material recovery facilities (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. In 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 blended in with bottles and jugs. As a outcome, many recycling applications and MRFs received’t settle for clamshells for recycling, though they’re product of recyclable PET plastic.

What You Can Do

If your native recycling program doesn’t settle for plastic clamshells, please make sure you preserve them out of your recycling bin. But don’t throw them out — they’re recyclable. In reality, NAPCOR reported that more than 100 million pounds 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 on this Earth911 Recycling Search. If there aren’t any recycling options close to you, keep away from buying merchandise with plastic clamshell packaging. Also, take into account contacting the producer or producer. Tell them about your considerations and allow them to know you’ll buy their product once more after they change to a sort of packaging you don’t need to throw within the trash. As a shopper, you can help influence businesses to alter.

About the Author

Derek McKee is an R&D chemist within the coatings trade. Because of his background, he actually likes to teach others about private security and environmental safety. Writing lets him attain extra folks than those in his firm.
This article was initially revealed on September 11, 2020