How to Properly Recycle Plastic

By Rachel Roberts

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhile avoiding plastic all together is the most eco-friendly option, plastic can be found in almost every aspect of our lives. From credits cards to water bottles to packaging, plastic is literally everywhere!

Recycling plastic can go a long way toward keeping plastic litter out of the environment and landfills. However, unknown to many people, there is a right and wrong way to recycle the plastic found in your house. Different types of plastic are processed and reused in different ways. The only sure way to know whether a plastic is recyclable is to check with your local municipality to see what plastic items it accepts.

If like many people you don’t have time to check with your municipality, here are a few general guidelines to help make recycling plastic a little bit easier. Every plastic item comes with a recycling symbol on the bottom: a triangle with a number on the inside.

That number represents the resin identification code (RIC) used by municipalities to identify different types of plastics. This code is important because some plastics are easier to recycle than others.

There are seven codes, which represent seven plastics:

  • Code 1: PET/PETE — includes soft drink and water bottles, containers for salad dressing, vegetable oil, and peanut butter. Code 1 plastics are accepted by curbside recycling programs. When recycling, please remove caps.189883_7260
  • Code 2: HDPE – includes milk jugs, juice bottles, bottles for bleach, laundry detergent, motor oils, butter, plastic produce bags, and yogurt tubes. Can be picked up through curbside recycling programs. When recycling, please remove caps.
  • Code 3: V/PVC – includes window cleaners, shampoo bottles, and cooking oil bottles. These plastics are usually not recycled at municipal facilities; however, some are accepted by plastic lumber makers.
  • Code 4: LDPE – includes bread wrappers, frozen food bags, and dry cleaning bags. Although these are not recyclable, many can be used as alternatives to resealable bags and can be used as trashcan liners.
  • Code 5: PP – includes yogurt containers, syrup bottles, straws, and some prescription medicine bottles. These are sometimes accepted by curbside recycling programs, but it is best to call your local municipality.
  • 644967_25963652Code 6: PS (polystyrene) – includes CD cases, take out containers, coffee cups, plates, and egg cartons. These are accepted by most curbside recycling programs.
  • Code 7: Other – includes three- and five-gallon water bottles, DVDs, signs, displays, and sunglasses. Code 7 plastics are typically made from more than one type of plastic and are not considered recyclable.

Although plastic is convenient, most plastics do not easily biodegrade, and plastic dust never biodegrades. According the UN Environment Programme, about 46,000 pieces of plastic litter are in every square mile of the ocean. For a helpful guide to recycling plastics that can be easily kept on your refrigerator, please visit: http://www.ecocycle.org/files/pdfs/pocket_guide_singleprint.pdf

References:

http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/green-living/recycling-symbols-plastics-460321#slide-5

http://environment.about.com/od/earthtalkcolumns/a/recycleplastics.htm

http://www.wisegeek.com/which-types-of-plastics-can-be-recycled.htm

http://www.ecocycle.org/plastics-recycling

http://www.wm.com/thinkgreen/what-can-i-recycle.jsp

 

 

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