How To Recycle Clamshell Plastic [10 Best Ways]

In today’s world, where environmental concerns are at the forefront of global discussions, recycling has become an essential practice for reducing waste and conserving resources.

Clamshell plastic packaging is something we see often, like in food containers and electronics packaging.

The good news is that this type of plastic, called PET or Polyethylene terephthalate, can be recycled completely, no matter what kind it is. This makes it a valuable material for recycling.

In Europe, a big part of our plastic waste comes from clamshell plastic and PET containers. In fact, they make up a whopping 59 percent of all plastic waste by weight. This shows that we really need to get better at recycling these materials to help the environment.

But recycling clamshell plastic can be tricky. In the United States, many places have a problem with contamination in recycling bins.

This means that a lot of what gets put in recycling bins can’t actually be recycled, which is a big issue. In some areas, this contamination rate can be as high as 65%.

In this guide, we’re going to learn how to recycle clamshell plastic properly, especially PET materials. We’ll cover everything from figuring out what can be recycled to getting it ready for recycling.

We’ll also talk about why it’s important to dispose of these materials responsibly and how it helps our environment.

By the end of this guide, you’ll be all set to do your part in reducing plastic waste and helping the environment through clamshell plastic recycling.

About Plastic Clamshell Containers

Plastic clamshell containers are those clear, hinged boxes you often see packaging things like food, electronics, or even toys. They’re called “clamshells” because they open and close like a clamshell, with a hinge in the middle.

These containers are made from plastic, which is not always great for the environment because it can take a very long time to break down in nature.

But the good news is, that some types of plastic used for these containers, like PET (Polyethylene terephthalate), can be recycled.

The problem is that many of these plastic clamshell containers end up as trash instead of being recycled. When they’re thrown in the regular trash, they can pile up in landfills and cause environmental issues.

So, it’s essential to know which types of clamshell plastics can be recycled and how to do it properly. Recycling these containers can help reduce waste and protect our planet.

When you see one of these containers, remember that it’s not just packaging; it’s an opportunity to make a positive impact on the environment.

What are the Challenges with Recycling Plastic Clamshell Containers?

Recycling plastic clamshell containers poses several challenges:

#Material Complexity: Clamshell containers can be made from various types of plastic, and not all of them are easily recyclable. Sorting and identifying the specific type of plastic can be a complicated and costly process for recycling facilities.

#Size and Shape: The shape and size of clamshell containers can make it difficult for sorting machines to handle them efficiently. Their three-dimensional form can get stuck or jammed in conveyor belts and machinery, leading to processing issues.

#Contamination: Clamshell containers often come into contact with food, oils, or other substances, making them dirty or greasy. This contamination can affect the quality of the recycled plastic and reduce its value.

#Limited End Markets: Even when clamshell containers are successfully recycled, there may be limited markets for the resulting recycled plastic. This can make it less economically viable for recycling facilities to process them.

#Mixed Materials: Some clamshell containers include mixed materials, such as paper labels or metal fasteners, which must be removed before recycling. This extra step adds complexity to the recycling process.

#Lack of Collection Programs: In some regions, there may be limited or no recycling programs specifically designed to collect and process clamshell containers, making it more challenging for consumers to recycle them.

#Transportation Costs: Clamshell containers are often lightweight, which means that transporting them to recycling facilities over long distances may not be cost-effective.

Addressing these challenges requires efforts from consumers, businesses, and policymakers to improve the recycling infrastructure, educate the public, and find innovative solutions for recycling these commonly used plastic containers.

What is the Environmental Impact of Recycling Clamshells?

Recycling clamshell containers has a positive environmental impact. It prevents these containers from ending up in landfills, where they can take a long time to decompose and harm the environment.

Additionally, recycling clamshells helps conserve natural resources by reusing plastic instead of creating new plastic from raw materials like oil. 

This process also contributes to a reduction in pollution since producing new plastic can release harmful pollutants.

Moreover, recycling clamshell containers is energy-efficient, which, in turn, helps lower greenhouse gas emissions. Overall, it’s a meaningful way to reduce waste, save resources, limit pollution, and promote environmental well-being.

How to Recycle Clamshell Plastic and Bottles?

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Recycling clamshell plastic containers and plastic bottles is essential for reducing waste and conserving resources. Here are some ways to recycle them effectively:

  1. Check Local Guidelines: Start by checking your local recycling guidelines and regulations. Different areas have different rules about what types of plastics can be recycled and how they should be prepared for recycling. Make sure you’re following the guidelines specific to your location.
  1. Clean and Rinse: Before recycling, make sure to clean and rinse the clamshell containers and bottles. Remove any food residue, labels, or caps. Containers with leftover food or liquids can contaminate the recycling stream, so it’s important to ensure they are clean.
  1. Separate Materials: Sort your recyclables properly. Plastic bottles and clamshell containers are typically made from different types of plastic, so it’s important to separate them into their respective categories. This makes it easier for recycling facilities to process them.
  1. Flatten and Crush: Flatten plastic bottles to save space in your recycling bin. This helps maximize the amount of material that can fit in recycling containers and reduces transportation costs.
  1. Recycling Bin: Place the cleaned and sorted clamshell containers and plastic bottles into your recycling bin. Make sure the bin is designated for recyclables and not mixed with regular trash.
  1. Recycling Centers: If your local recycling program doesn’t accept certain types of plastics, or if you have a large quantity of recyclables, you can take them to a recycling center or drop-off location that accepts these materials.
  1. Reuse: Consider reusing clamshell containers for storage or as plant pots, and refill plastic bottles with beverages or cleaning solutions to extend their life before recycling.
  1. Support Bottle Deposit Programs: In some regions, you can return plastic bottles to receive a deposit refund. This encourages recycling and reduces litter.
  1. Educate Others: Spread awareness about the importance of recycling clamshell plastic containers and bottles among your friends, family, and community members to encourage responsible recycling practices.
  1. Advocate for Recycling: Support initiatives and policies that promote recycling and sustainable waste management in your area. Encourage businesses to use recyclable packaging materials.

By following these steps and encouraging responsible recycling practices, you can contribute to reducing waste and conserving resources while helping to protect the environment.

Things to Keep in Mind Before Recycling Clamshells Plastic

Before you toss clamshell plastic containers into the recycling bin, there are a few important things to remember.

First, check your local recycling rules to make sure these containers are accepted. Next, give them a good cleaning to remove any leftover food or labels. 

It’s also a good idea to separate them from plastic bottles because they might be made from different types of plastic.

If there are any non-recyclable parts like metal or paper, take those off. And remember, don’t put in clamshell containers with food or liquids still inside, as this can mess up the recycling process.

Keeping these things in mind helps make recycling clamshell plastics more effective and better for the environment.

What is the Reason Behind the Inability to Recycle PET Clamshell Containers?

The difficulty in recycling PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) clamshell containers stems from their design complexity.

These containers sometimes have multiple layers of plastic or include non-plastic elements like paper labels or metal parts, making them challenging to separate during recycling. Their unusual shape and size can also cause problems in recycling machinery, sometimes leading to jams. 

Additionally, PET clamshells often have food residues or contaminants that are tough to remove. These issues make recycling PET clamshells less efficient and economically viable.

Efforts are ongoing to find solutions and make recycling these containers easier and more environmentally friendly.


In conclusion, recycling clamshell plastic is a meaningful way to reduce waste and help the environment. By following local recycling guidelines, cleaning containers, and separating them properly, we can ensure that clamshell plastics have a second life.

Remember, recycling these plastics keeps them out of landfills, conserves resources, and lowers pollution. It’s a small effort with a big impact on our planet’s well-being, and we can all play a part in creating a more sustainable future.


Is clamshell packaging sustainable?

Clamshell packaging, like many plastics, isn’t always very sustainable. It can be tough on the environment because it takes a long time to break down, and making new plastic can create pollution.

However, some clamshells can be recycled, which is better for the environment. So, while it’s not perfect, we can make it more sustainable by recycling and reusing clamshell containers whenever we can.

Is clamshell packaging biodegradable?

Most clamshell packaging is not biodegradable. Clamshell containers are typically made from plastic materials, which do not easily break down in the environment.

They can persist in landfills for a long time, contributing to plastic waste issues. However, there are efforts to develop biodegradable alternatives for packaging materials to reduce environmental impact, but they are not yet widely used for clamshell packaging.

What plastic are clamshells?

Clamshells are usually made from a type of plastic called PET, which stands for Polyethylene terephthalate. This plastic is clear, lightweight, and commonly used for packaging things like food, electronics, or toys.

PET is known for its durability and ability to keep items safe, but it can take a very long time to break down in the environment.

So, while it’s a practical choice for packaging, it’s important to recycle it to help reduce waste and protect our planet.

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