Which plastics can really be recycled?

which plastics can be recycled


Sometimes it really seems as if everything is made of plastic. Plastics may be advertised as a recyclable product but many types of plastic are difficult to reuse. Small amounts of food waste can also contaminate large amounts of recyclable material rendering them useless. Just because your food came in a plastic container doesn't mean you can immediately add it to the recycling when you're finished eating. If the plastic container that you used has some leftover food, the food has to go into the bin and the container needs to be washed before placing it into the recycling bin. Badly managed waste ends up littering our streets, blocking our waterways, and harming marine life. A study says 32% of plastic packaging ends up in our oceans every year.
Many plastics can be easily recycled, but according to National Geographic, 91% of plastic has never even been recycled. Meaning that each use is the first and only for many products.
Of course, the symbols themselves need explaining, too. While the three arrow triangle seems to mean the item can be easily recycled this is not the case. The universal plastic resin symbol (three arrows forming a triangle) remains the same, the numbers inside make a significant difference. Below is an explanation of each symbol and how the plastic can be managed.

Symbol #1: PET or PETE

PET or PETE (polyethylene terephthalate) is the most common plastic for single-use bottled beverages, because it is inexpensive, lightweight, and easy to recycle. It poses low risk of leaching breakdown products. Recycling rates remain relatively low (around 20%), though the material is in high demand by manufacturers.
Found in: soft drinks; water; tomato sauce; bottles; mouthwash bottles; peanut butter containers; salad dressing and vegetable oil containers
Recycle it?: through most recycling programs, remember to wash it before recycling.

Symbol #2: HDPE

HDPE (high density polyethylene) is a versatile plastic with many uses, especially for packaging. It carries low risk of leaching and is easily recyclable into many goods.
Found in: milk jugs; juice bottles; bleach, detergent, and other household cleaner bottles; shampoo bottles; some trash and shopping bags; motor oil bottles; butter and yogurt tubs; cereal box liners
Recycle it?: through most recycling programs, remember to wash it before recycling.

Symbol #3: V or PVC

V (vinyl) or PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is tough and weathers well, so it is commonly used for piping, siding, and similar applications. PVC is cheap, so it's found in plenty of products and packaging. Because chlorine is part of PVC, its manufacture can result in the release of highly dangerous dioxins. Also never burn PVC, because it releases toxins.
Found in: shampoo bottles; cooking oil bottles; blister packaging; wire jacketing; siding; windows; piping
Recycle it?: rarely recycled

Symbol #4: LDPE

LDPE (low density polyethylene) is a flexible plastic with many applications. Historically it has not been accepted through most American curbside recycling programs, but more and more communities are starting to accept it.
Found in: Squeezable bottles; bread, frozen food, dry cleaning, and shopping bags; tote bags; furniture
Recycle it?: LDPE is not often recycled

Symbol #5: PP

PP (polypropylene) is used to make wet wipes and has a high melting point, so is often chosen for containers that must accept hot liquid. It is gradually becoming more accepted by recyclers. 
Found in: some yogurt containers; syrup and medicine bottles; caps; straws and wet wipes
Recycle it?: rarely recycled

Symbol #6: PS

PS (polystyrene) can be made into rigid or foam products — in the latter case it is popularly known as the trademark Styrofoam. Styrene monomer can leach into foods and it's a possible human carcinogen, while styrene oxide is classified as a probable carcinogen. The material was long on environmentalists' hit lists for dispersing widely across the landscape, and for being notoriously difficult to recycle. Most places still don't accept it in foam forms because it's 98% air.
Found in: disposable plates and cups, meat trays, egg cartons, carry-out containers, aspirin bottles, compact disc cases
Recycle it?: rarely recycled

Symbol #7: Miscellaneous

A wide variety of plastic resins that don't fit into the previous categories are lumped into number 7. Polycarbonate is number 7, and is the hard plastic that has parents worried these days, after studies have shown it can leach potential hormone disruptors. PLA (polylactic acid), which is made from plants and is carbon neutral, also falls into this category.
Found in: three- and five-gallon water bottles, 'bullet-proof' materials, sunglasses, DVDs, iPod and computer cases, signs and displays, certain food containers, nylon
Recycle it?: Number 7 plastics are not often recycled
Our Daily Peach Makeup Removal + Toning Pads are a great replacement for wet wipes and "cotton" balls or pads that are plastic fibre blends are are not organic. Cotton production uses a lot of water and fertilizer so products should not be single use. 
- Courtney

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