Can You Recycle or Reuse Plastic Takeaway Containers?


What should you do with plastic takeaway containers? Find out if they can be recycled, reused safely or if eco-friendly alternatives are better.

People are ordering more takeaways than ever, with the average annual spend per person rising 42% in the past two years. Even as the hospitality industry returns, takeaways still account for a large percentage of total orders, indicating a permanent shift in consumer behaviour.

With such a dramatic change in customers’ preferences, people need to know whether or not it’s safe to reuse plastic food containers and how to dispose of them responsibly.

Can You Reuse Plastic Takeaway Containers? 

If you like getting the most for your money or are conscious of reducing plastic waste, you’ll be wondering what you can do with those plastic containers and lids that so often make their way into our household. They seem perfect for reheating any leftovers or housing other snacks lying around your house, but is it safe to reuse them?

If they’re made of plastic, the answer is NO.

Plastic containers leach harmful chemicals into their contents. When exposed to heat, phthalates — just one of the hazardous chemicals used to form plastic — end up in the very food you’re eating. This happens on a microscopic level and has been linked to serious health conditions, a worrying sign that plastic isn’t a safe option for takeaway outlets.

Anything made from polystyrene can’t be reused either, as it carries a risk of bacterial contamination. Since polystyrene is a porous, plastic-based material, there are plenty of small spaces within the packaging to trap bacteria from food and the environment. 

If you care about the environment, it can be difficult to accept that all we can do is throw away these plastic items. Most of us immediately want to find some alternative use for such items to increase their lifecycle. But, the truth is that reusing plastic takeaway containers will do more harm than good and could directly affect your health.

Can You Recycle Plastic Takeaway Containers? 

Since reusing plastic takeaway containers is out of the question, what about recycling them? This depends on the material they’re made from. Check the packaging to see if there’s a recycling symbol and number on the base of the product, its Resin Identification Code.

Here’s what each of those numbers means:


Number Product Recyclable?
1 PET or PETE Only curbside recycling programs will take these, so long as they’re rinsed and clean of any food. Do not throw in general recycling.
2 HDPE Takeaway containers in this form can be recycled through curbside recycling programs. Film and thinner products can’t be.
3 PVC or V It’s unlikely that this plastic type can be recycled. That said, it’s always worth checking with your local council.
4 LDPE This material isn’t widely recycled unless the store does a return program or your local council has a specialist facility.
5 PP Like PET, these containers can be recycled through curbside recycling programs. Do not throw in general recycling.
6 PS It’s unlikely that this plastic type can be recycled. It can be difficult to dispose of since it’s a foam product.
7 Miscellaneous It’s unlikely that these plastic types are recycled since they have a broad classification. This numbering might refer to plastic film present on takeaways or a small portion of the packaging.

So, not all plastics are created equal. They all require some additional effort to be recycled instead of tossed with general recycling waste. This can be a burden and leads many people to simply throw away their plastic takeaway containers in general waste.

If you want to recycle plastic takeaway containers, make sure they are thoroughly rinsed to remove any food or residue. This is a must for recycling facilities that may fail to accept your items if dirty. Recycle Now suggests using the remains of your soapy dishwater to clean items before disposal, as well as removing any cardboard or paper sleeves. 

What’s a Good Plastic Takeaway Container Alternative?

What’s a Good Plastic Takeaway Container Alternative

You might be thinking that fish and chips wrapped in paper or pizza served in cardboard is a much more environmentally friendly way to eat takeaway food. Unfortunately, the majority of recycling facilities will reject spoiled takeaway containers due to potential contamination. Oil and grease can penetrate these materials and interfere with the recycling process, negatively affecting recycling and contributing to landfill waste.

To combat this issue and improve recycling rates, we’ve developed grease-resistant takeaway containers like our food-grade Kraftware boxes

Here are a few awesome eco-friendly examples:

  • Pizza Boxes — Both compostable and recyclable, these high-quality, super-sustainable boxes can be disposed of responsibly no matter how messy they get. The food-grade Kraft lining helps reduce oil and grease penetration, improving recycling rates, but they can also be composted commercially or at home since they’re totally plastic-free.
    Snack Boxes
  • Snack Boxes — Leak-proof, grease-resistant and stackable, these snack boxes perform incredibly well and make a versatile addition to your kitchen. They’re easy to use and are suitable for hot, cold, wet or dry foods. Best of all, these containers will keep your food fresh and delicious for your customers to enjoy, no matter what kind of culinary delights you’re serving.
    Burger Boxes
  • – Burger Boxes — With a lock-in hinged lid, you can package your patties with ease while protecting the environment. Available in various sizes, you can serve stacked burgers without compromise. They’re also great for freshly-baked cookies and other hot foods that you need to keep fresh.
    Chip Cups
  • – Chip Cups — Whether it’s perfectly cooked halloumi fries, rustic wedges or something else entirely, these chip cups are ideal for delicious finger foods. Made from 90% recycled materials, they’re a handy alternative to polystyrene chip cones.
    Cake Boxes
  • – Cake Boxes — Something for dessert? These cake boxes are ideal for all kinds of sweet treats. With a neat handle, they make small takeaways a lot more convenient for your customers. They also feature a unique, soft-edged design that’s bound to make your takeaway food memorable.


With so many eco-friendly alternatives to standard, not-so-eco-friendly plastic takeaway containers, it’s easy to see why our sustainable packaging is becoming the most popular choice for restaurants, cafés and all manner of food outlets.

Need a Sustainable Alternative to Plastic Takeaway Containers?

We serve some of the biggest names in the British takeaway industry. You can choose from both hot food containers and cold food containers crafted using a range of sustainable materials, all accepted by recycling facilities. Materials such as PLA bioplastic give you all the benefits of plastic — durability, transparency, versatility — without the drawbacks of oil-based plastics. We also sell tougher versions of cardboard, such as unbleached Kraft board boxes and bagasse containers, making our packaging functional, effective and super eco-friendly.

Shop our eco-friendly food packaging and get free delivery on all UK mainland orders. Looking for something extra special? Check out our amazing branded packaging solutions and food labelling stickers to give your street food some street cred.


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