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Most of us will have at least one old plastic lunch box at home and there will come a day when we need to dispose of it. Even if we keep it for years after it's no longer serviceable for food storage, at some point it'll need to go.

We've been asking our customers how long they use their plastic lunchbox before they replace it and we've had over 200 answers. On average, people replace a plastic lunchbox every 2.4 years. We've also found that most of us don't know what to do with their old box - hence writing this blog for anyone else as confused as our customers! 

So, can you recycle plastic food containers? Yes, you can. You'll need to check the bottom of the container for specific numbers or recycling symbols. They determine whether or not the plastic container is recyclable and where you can recycle it. Find out more below. 

If you look carefully at at the base of your container you will see the triangle recycling mark. This tells you which plastic the box is made out of - not that the box is recyclable. If you don't find a triangle mark, I'm afraid that it's landfill for that container as we can't know what material it is.

Skip to the end of this blog for a key to the triangle mark.

 For most of us the council provided kerbside recycling is the easiest way to get rid of our old lunchbox.

However, trying to work out what can go into the recycling can melt your brain! which can lead to the condition know as wishcycling! 

Wishcycling is when we put stuff in the recycling not really knowing if it can be recycled, unfortunately this can mean the whole lot gets rejected in the process,  so it's important to get it right. 

Most council websites have lists of items that can or can't go into the recycling bin, but all have different criteria and the lists are (understandably) not comprehensive, which does lead to doubt and confusion. For instance, some accept bubble wrap and black plastic and some don't. Pyrex is not recyclable but not all councils list this.

Unsurprisingly we didn't found a council list that mentions recycling lunchboxes specifically.

However it's probable that your old lunchbox or plastic food container is the  same type of plastic as a plastic food tray which will almost certainly be acceptable. This is usually Polypropylene or PP - that's a number 5 in the little triangle you can find on the product.

So, if you  find a number 5 recycling triangle mark on your old lunchbox, then it's probably safe to put it in the kerbside recycling. If you see a different number and can't find the relevant information on the council website then you could try phoning to ask them.

Some councils also do list of types of plastic that you can include in your kerbsie recycling bin, so it's worth checking. 

For example, Leeds say that plastic types 1 (PET), 2 (HDPE), 4 (LDPE) and 5 (PP) are all acceptable for the recycling bin.

Another option would be to go to your local household recycling centre, your old lunchbox can usually be put into the 'hard plastics' skip.


Plastic Classification Numbers 

1. PETE also called PET is Polyethylene Terephthalate

Used for drinks bottles or other plastic food containers like peanut butter jars.   

2. HDPE also called PEHD is High-Density Polyethylene

Used for milk bottles, motor oil, shampoos and conditioners, soap bottles, detergents, and bleaches. 

3. V also called PVC is Polyvinyl Chloride

Found in toys, packaging and piping among other things.   

4. LDPE is Low density polyethylene

A soft, lightweight, flexible plastic used in films and squeezy bottles.   

5. PP is Polypropylene

A rigid plastic used for caps, closures and other food packaging.   

6. PS is Polystyrene.

I think we all know what that is!  

7. Other......?


Well, good luck working that out!


We hope this short guide helps clear up any confusion you have! 


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