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Is Thermoformed Plastic Recyclable?

Edge Materials Management-1

Thermoformed plastic, a widely used material in various industries, has raised concerns regarding its recyclability. As consumers become more environmentally conscious, the desire for more sustainable practices and innovative solutions becomes increasingly urgent. 

In addition to technological advancements and potential solutions emerging to address the current challenges in recycling these materials, consumers, manufacturers, and recycling facilities must work together to create a more sustainable and efficient recycling system for thermoformed plastic. 


Yes, thermoformed plastic is recyclable, but it’s recyclability varies depending on the specific type of plastic used in the thermoforming process. Certain types of thermoformed plastics are more readily recyclable than others due to their material characteristics and market demand. 

Some commonly recycled plastics include: 

  • PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) 
  • HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene)
  • PP (Polypropylene)
  • LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene)


In the ongoing pursuit of more sustainable and eco-friendly solutions, thermoformed plastic recycling technology has seen remarkable progress. This field continuously evolves to meet the rising demand for responsible plastic waste management. 

Here are some of the advancements and techniques within thermoformed plastic recycling technology:

  • Closed-Loop Recycling: These systems establish partnerships among manufacturers, retailers, and recyclers to create a continuous recycling cycle. This approach ensures the collection, recycling, and reprocessing of their own products
  • Industrial Recycling: Innovative sorting technologies, including automated systems with advanced sensors and optical scanners, improve the efficiency and accuracy of industrial recycling.
  • Toll Grinding: Toll grinding transforms plastic scrap into reusable material, promoting resource recovery and reducing the need for virgin materials.
  • Toll Washing and Drying: These services have evolved to ensure thorough cleaning and decontamination of plastic materials, making them suitable for various applications.
  • Re-pelletizing: Advances in re-pelletizing methods enhance the quality of recycled plastic pellets, meeting specifications for diverse applications.
  • Scrap Sorting / Disassembly: Improved processes for sorting and disassembling thermoformed plastic scrap separate valuable materials effectively, facilitating reuse and minimizing waste.


Recycling thermoformed plastic offers various benefits, both from an environmental and economic standpoint. 


Recycling thermoformed plastic plays a vital role in reducing our environmental footprint. Here are a few key ways recycling thermoformed plastic benefits the environment:

  • Conservation of Resources: Thermoformed plastic is typically made from petroleum-based materials derived from non-renewable resources. We can conserve these valuable resources by recycling these plastics for future generations.
  • Energy Conservation: Producing thermoformed plastic requires a significant amount of energy. Recycling this plastic reduces the energy consumption of manufacturing new materials from scratch, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and a smaller carbon footprint.
  • Waste Reduction: Thermoformed plastic waste, if not properly recycled, often ends up in landfills where it takes a long time to decompose. By recycling this plastic, we can significantly reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills, minimizing the negative impact on our environment.


Apart from the environmental advantages, recycling thermoformed plastic also brings about several economic benefits:

  • Cost Savings: Recycling thermoformed plastic can be a cost-effective alternative to producing new plastic materials. By reusing and reprocessing existing plastic, companies can reduce production costs and save money on raw materials. Some recycling companies, like EDGE Materials Management, which is part of The Vantage Plastics Family of companies, even offer buyback programs as an incentive to recycle the materials after a product is no longer needed. 
  • Market Demand: As environmental awareness grows, the demand for recycled plastic products increases. Companies can tap into this market by recycling thermoformed plastic, creating new business opportunities, and expanding their customer base.
  • Job Creation: The recycling industry provides employment opportunities for individuals involved in collecting, sorting, and processing thermoformed plastic waste.


Recycling thermoformed plastic poses a few challenges due to the plastic’s unique characteristics.

  • Material Composition: Thermoformed plastic is often made from multiple layers of different materials, such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), or polystyrene (PS). This layered structure makes separating and sorting the materials difficult.
  • Contamination: Thermoformed plastic packaging frequently comes into contact with food, oils, and other substances, resulting in contamination issues. Contaminants can decrease the quality of the recycled plastic and affect its potential applications.
  • Limited Market Demand: The demand for recycled thermoformed plastic is still relatively low compared to other types of plastic. The limited market demand can impact the economic viability of recycling facilities, making it challenging to establish a robust recycling infrastructure for this specific type of plastic.


In 2016, Vantage Plastics established Edge Materials Management, as a member of its vertically integrated family of companies. This strategic move aimed to bolster Vantage Plastics’ commitment to sustainability and support its guaranteed buy-back program. Edge Materials Management offers various services, including industrial recycling, product life cycle management, toll grinding, toll washing and drying, re-pelletizing, and scrap sorting/disassembly. Edge also has the ability to recycle and reprocess styrene foam, a significant benefit for larger companies, like GM, that take advantage of this opportunity. 

These services promote responsible plastic recycling and help reduce waste. As an affiliate of Vantage Plastics, Edge Materials Management contributes to the company’s vision of becoming a leader in innovative and eco-friendly plastics processing.