Thermoform plastic trays are made from Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET), and PET is the polymer with the number 1 triangle sign.


Why is it not recyclable?

Though thermoform trays are classified as PET, which is recyclable, technically, they are not. Trays usually come in a variety of shapes and sizes and the composition of these trays is usually not guaranteed to be consistent, making them more flexible and unreliable as compared to PET bottles. According to PETCO, due to the physical incompatibility with the existing PET recycling machinery in South Africa, the recycling plants and machinery are not suitable to transform thermoform trays into PET flakes. Turning the trays into flakes represents the first step in the process of recycling PET.

A high percentage of thermoform products used in South Africa usually contain additives or are manufactured to consist of layers of different plastic polymers, which makes them non-recyclable.

Even when pure PET is used for the trays, the sheets are coated with silicon-based lubricants, which could compromise the quality of the end-products that are manufactured through recycling.

So what can I do if I have the tray?

  • Plant small herbs in the trays to put in your garden.

  • Use the trays, with no holes underneath as a water bowl for your pets or set up a perch for birds to feed out of in your garden.

  • Use it to store bread tags or bottle caps, then get them recycled through your service provider once the tray is full.



  • Ask the shop to wrap your sandwich in paper. It makes more sense for the environment.

  • Bring your container to the shop to package the food items that may be placed in PET trays. You can also perhaps shop at stores where the items are sold loose. That way, you always pick the best looking food item in the bunch!

  • Prepare your breakfast and lunch from home, to avoid buying food and the packaging during the day. Save the planet, and save a few bucks while you are at it!

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Cape Town, South Africa

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