First, let’s quick say what plastics we can recycle: We accept plastic bottles, tubs and jugs. Period.
When items fall outside of those categories, no matter what number they are, it gets difficult to collect, process and ultimately recycle.
Q: What do you mean when you say Clamshell or Berry containers?
These plastic containers are made of #1 PET thermoform and are usually used for berry containers, salad containers, tomato containers and fresh herbs containers.
Q: Why can’t you recycle them in Sioux Falls?
Sioux Falls is not alone here – there are no good American markets that want this material. This is a perfect example of why we don’t go by plastic numbers. A #1 clamshell container is NOT the same as a #1 bottle and they cannot be recycled the same way. Clamshells create significant contamination problems if they make it in with other plastics, as they must be heated at a different temperature and recycled separately. They actually cause an ash when melted and can ruin an entire batch of new product!
Q: Why can’t you just take them and sort them out yourselves?
These types of clamshell containers come in all shapes, sizes and materials. It would be impossible to train our team members how to sort these packages just from visual inspection. Not only can they contaminate other plastics, but they are so flimsy that they flatten under other materials and can be “seen” by our equipment as paper, which again, creates a contamination issue. Our process is automated for a reason, adding in another manual step is not realistic for our business to be successful.
Q: Will you ever be able to recycle them?
There have been recent grants to encourage research in thermoform PET recycling, but no significant progress has been made to be a viable market yet. As always, we continue to follow the marketplace closely and will adjust our process if the option is available and makes sense to incorporate. For now, please continue to recycle bottles, tubs and jugs only.
Q: So what are we supposed to do with them?
Some companies burn these types of plastic for energy, but as a consumer, the easiest option for you is to try to avoid buying them in the first place, put it in your trash bin or try to reuse it.