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The plastic clamshell is one of the most versatile options for product packaging and can be used for a wide array of retail products as well as many specialty foods. At Indepak, we’ve been designing and producing custom clamshell packaging for more than 50 years for retailers and specialty food companies.

When we design a plastic clamshell, a variety of factors must be taken into consideration. This includes weight, strength, presentation, cost containment, etc. All of this boils down to selecting the best plastic materials for your plastic clamshell project. At our facility, we have multiple lines of high-speed thermoforming equipment capable of processing many types of rigid plastic materials, including the following.

High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)

Back in the 1950s, when HDPE was invented, its creator, Karl Ziegler (who would later win the Nobel Prize for chemistry) probably had little idea how his invention would change the course of packaging history. Today, HDPE is one of the most popular options for plastic packaging, including plastic clamshell packaging.

HDPE is approved for food content, so we can use it to design clamshell packs for our specialty food clients, but it also can be an ideal option for many retail products, used either for clamshells or blister packs. HDPE is moisture-resistant and resistant to many chemicals (across the pH scale), which is often why is used to create bottles for cleaners and personal care items, such as shampoo. HDPE is strong and impact-resistant, although it can be prone to stress cracking. HDPE can withstand great temperature extremes, which means it typically can go from the freezer to the microwave with ease.

Polypropylene (PP)

Polypropylene has a wide range of uses. While it can be used for plastic clamshell packaging, it also is commonly used to make thermoformed trays for microwavable meals. In fact, PP is perhaps the plastic best-suited for microwave oven applications. In addition to clamshells and trays, we also can make tubs with lids using PP.

PP is a versatile plastic with high chemical resistance, high durability and impact resistance. Its insulative properties also mean that this plastic has a high resistance to electricity. PP can be transparent or opaque, depending on your needs. Polypropylene clamshells can be a good option for electronic items and many retail products.

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)

While PET can be used for some plastic clamshell projects, we all know it best as the material source for plastic water bottles. PET is approved for food contact and can be used to make clamshell containers for fruits, vegetables, bakery goods, deli items and much more. While it is safe for use as food packaging, it has a much lower temperature tolerance than HPDE or PP, so it is not an ideal option for foods that will be placed in the microwave.

At Indepak, we have extensive experience working with PET as well as PETG, which is PET that has been glycol-modified. PETG can be a tricky material to work with, but we’ve had many years of experience with PETG. Our design team will let you know if PET or PETG is the best option for your plastic clamshell or perhaps another material.

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

PVC is actually one of the oldest plastics, and it was first developed in the 19th century. There are two basic types of plastic – thermoform and thermoset. Thermoform plastics can be melted down and reused while thermoset cannot be reused. PVC is a thermoform plastic, which means it can be recycled for another use.

While PVC might make you think of those sturdy white pipes used for plumbing and irrigation. PVC can be an excellent choice for packaging, including a plastic clamshell. PVC is highly affordable and offers excellent clarity so consumers will have no trouble viewing the product inside.

PVC is approved for food contact and can be used for clamshells for deli items, fruit, veggies, takeaway containers and more, although it is not meant to be used as a microwavable container. PVC also can be an excellent option for retail clamshell packaging, as well as medical packaging.

Starch-Based Bioplastics

At Indepak, we can use polylactic acid (PLA) for some packaging projects. PLA typically is created using vegetable starch, such as corn starch, which means it comes from a renewable source. PLA is approved for food contact, which makes it an option for some of our specialty foods clients.

However, there are some downsides to PLA. While it is formed from renewable sources and technically biodegradable, what many people don’t know is that in order for degradation to occur, these plastics must be taken to a special facility and biodegraded under special conditions and typically will not break down in a landfill because the ground simply doesn’t reach a temperature high enough to cause degradation.

PLA also cannot simply be tossed into a recycling bin. While you technically can recycle it, it must be kept separate from other types of recyclable material. If it becomes contaminated with other plastics, such as PET or HDPE, this renders it unrecyclable.

Still, for some plastic clamshell projects, PLA might be an option to consider. If we cannot use PLA, we might be able to opt for other sustainable options, such as creating your clamshell packaging using materials with recycled content or simply designing a smaller package to limit the total amount of plastic materials used. For some projects, a trap blister or another type of blister packaging might be a good option, and this also reduces the use of plastic materials needed for your packaging.

While plastic materials do have some drawbacks, ecologically speaking, there also are some big advantages that make plastics a sustainable option. For instance, did you know that producing paper and cardboard takes far more energy than producing plastics? Additionally, because plastics are lighter in weight, fewer fossil fuels are used to transport items in plastic packaging.

Plastics also are highly protective, shielding your product from damage caused by impact, either during transport or if your product is dropped off a store shelf. Plastics also keep out moisture, which can prevent product damage. When it comes to specialty foods, using plastic materials, greatly reduces food waste, which is a huge problem around the globe.

Get In Touch With Indepak

If you are in the market for plastic clamshell packaging, blister packs, plastic trays or a completely unique plastic packaging design, the team at Indepak is always here to help. To get started with a packaging project, fill out our quick contact form. You also can reach us by email at sales2@indepak.com or call us at (800) 526-6273.

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