First off, a number inside 3 chasing triangles is NOT a recycling symbol. That number represents a resin code. A RESIN CODE! Not that there is a buyer who will purchase the material and recycle it, thereby making it recyclable.
Plastic water bottles are #1 PET (Polyethylene terephthalate). They are indeed accepted in most curbside residential recycling collections. They have buyers. Companies want that #1 plastic.
Plastic produce clamshells are also #1 thermoformed PET. They are NOT accepted. Here’s why:
- Clamshells are made differently than water bottles. They are manufactured by extrusion thermoforming where the plastic is extruded to create a single sheet, heated and then a form pressed on to it to create multiple clamshells. Water bottles are made by forcing hot plastic into a mold (called injection molding), and as a result of pressurized air, heat and pressure, it’s stretched into a bottle shape.
- Clamshell plastic melts at a different temperature than water bottles so they can’t be bundled together for recycling at the same place.
- Clamshells are difficult to sort because of their many different sizes and styles and that they flatten easily and end up “hiding”.
- Clamshells have strong adhesive labels that are difficult to remove and will contaminate the recycled plastic.
Since their introduction in 1976, billions of plastic clamshells now sit in our landfills. You, as a consumer, can choose to not buy produce in plastic clamshells but to buy it in alternatives like the easily-recycled Sustainable Produce Container. Ask your grocery store to have their growers use these containers.
Also, legislators should “encourage” companies to invest in the recovery of the packaging they put on shelves. They could charge a fee for any containers that are designated as “hard to recycle” in residential recycling services.