Why can’t I recycle these


Why are plastic bottles (#1 PET) almost universally recyclable, but plastic clamshells (also #1 PET) considered to be worthless and rarely, if ever, considered recyclable?

It has to do with how these two different containers are processed, and how those different processes create a product with different melting points. Even though both are made from #1 PET plastic, mixing them together contaminates both.

A water bottle is blowmolded and clamshell packaging, shown above, is thermoformed.  Thermoformed recyclate has lower value, so recyclers stick to bottles and try to avoid accepting any of the clamshell packaging.  Food contamination, along with updraft  sorting machines that often “float” the light-weight clamshells in with the cardboard or paper bales create additional problems for recyclers.

If ever a person needed to understand yet another reason why the “triangles with a number inside” DO NOT mean that an item is recyclable, this one should cinch it.  Only by contacting your local recycler can you know what items are acceptable.  Often, they have websites where you can download a flyer, and post it handily right where you do your garbage/recycle separation.

Learn more about efforts to make thermoformed PET more recyclable in this article by Earth911.

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