Earth Day 2019: Recycling Plastics — What's a 'Tub' And Can It Go In The Bin?

Earth Day 2019: Recycling Plastics — What’s a ‘Tub’ And Can It Go In The Bin?

  • The Kane County Division of Environmental and Water Resources and Kane County Connects are “Counting Down to Earth Day” with a series of articles on “Going Green” in 2019. This article was contributed by the Kane County Division of Environmental and Water Resources.

Recycling plastics is one of the best things you can do for Earth Day, or any day in Kane County, IL.

And many of the questions people ask all the time involve plastic bottles, tubs, jugs and jars.

For example, what exactly does “tub” mean? Like, what about yogurt cups or clamshell take-out containers, or fruit boxes?

Here’s the key:

A tub is a three-dimensional container — and it is that “dimensionality” that makes it recyclable.

In order for an object to be recycleable, the shape of it has to be able to be sorted at the sorting facility, using the technology we have available.

So a tub is a shape that has a bottom and sides.


  • Clamshells are like two tubs stuck together or a tub with a lid connected – so, yes, they can be recycled.

Yogurt Cups, Margarine Containters, Etc.

  • Yogurt cups, sour cream and margarine containers, hummus containers, and the like are all considered tubs and can be recycled.

Fruit And Lettuce Boxes

  • Fruit boxes and lettuce boxes are considered tubs and can all be recycled.

The Skinny on Lids

If the lids to these tubs can be snapped back on tightly, then do so, and they will also get recycled.

If the lid is thin and flat and does not snap on tightly, it is actually better to place it in the trash — because they will not be able to be sorted by shape by the machines and will either end up in with the paper or being discarded out the end of the process and sent to the landfill.

A good test is to put the lid on and squeeze the container a bit. If it pops off, then trash it, if it stays on then leave it on and recycle it with the container.

Read The Countdown To Earth Day Series!