Can Microwave Meal Trays Be Recycled?

I recently had a Lean Cuisine (the first in awhile) and after enjoying the four cheese cannelloni I had a question. I know that I can recycle the cardboard box the meal came in, but what about the meal tray that houses the before mentioned meal? I found out that indeed, “Yes I can!”. It turns out that most microwave and oven-ready meal trays are made from Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET, PETE), which is #1 of the Plastic Identification Codes. #1 products can be recycled can be recycled by your home-recycling pick-up program or local recycling center.

ConAgra Foods, one of the leading manufacturers of meal trays, has frozen meal trays made from post-consumer recycled plastic. The trays, which contain up to 40 percent post-consumer recycled plastic, will divert approximately 8 million pounds of plastic from landfills to the recycling stream each year. You can do your part as well; recycle those meal trays instead of throwing them in the trash.

ConAgra Foods has partnered with Associated Packaging Technologies to utilize a new technology that cleans recycled plastic for use as a component in frozen meal trays. Older plastics technologies limited food companies to using only new plastic to comply with regulations for direct food contact materials. The new ultra-clean processing technology makes it safe for consumers to eat the prepared food directly from the frozen meal trays. The new trays are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as direct food contact materials.

So, can microwave meal trays be recycled? Yes

Clay Miller
the authorClay Miller
I am the creator/writer of and I'm an advocate for oceans, beaches, state parks. I enjoy all things outdoors (e.g. running, golf, gardening, hiking, etc.) I am a graduate of the University of Kentucky (Go Wildcats!!). I'm also a huge fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I was born and raised in the beautiful state of Kentucky.


  • Unfortunately, in Britain at least, even cleaned black microwave trays aren’t accepted for recycling even though they carry the carry the recycling symbol and the plastic code – either PET or PP. The reason for this quoted in local council and recycling company websites is that their colour fails to trigger the plastic sorting equipment sensors. Either this isn’t the whole story or they’re just not committed enough – surely the trays could be collected and processed separately?! Perhaps the critical question is whether there would be a market for the end-product.

  • I asked a local recycling center what type of pet plastic the accept. They said they accept #1 pet bottles and plastic jars. I heard recycling centers won’t accept pet microwave plastic because it contains chemicals the bottles do not have. They are pet plastic. But different from bottles and jars. So I have a few hundred pet microwave trays, and food containers. The websites I look at for surrounding communities say the accept pet bottles and jars. Many say microwave trays not accepted.

  • NO. Black plastic trays are not recyclable for a couple of reasons: (1) black items cannot be sensed by the optical sorters most modern recycling centers use to separate plastics from other items, and (2) most plastic recyclers can’t use and don’t want black plastic. The good news is that most frozen food trays contain a high recycled content – they are made of material that has already been recycled at least once.

  • Futhermore, the card board boxes have a coating in case of melting of the package. Thus, they
    cannot, per my recycle company, be put in paper recyclables AT ALL

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