Plastic: We’ve Got Your Number
Plastic has a bad reputation. We try to avoid it as much as possible because it is one of the most common nonbiodegradable materials in our landfills. However, plastic is so convenient, inexpensive, and versatile that sometimes we can’t avoid it. That’s ok. Part of the reason plastic has a bad rap comes from the fact that consumers don’t know which plastics can be recycled and which can’t. To effectively recycle plastic items, you need to know the plastic number and which numbers your municipality’s recycling pickup service accepts. Usually, you can find a Recycling Guide on your city website. At JRM Hauling, we collect numbers 1-7; most Massachusetts recycling centers do the same.
Let’s talk numbers. 39 U.S. states now require a single digit – 1-7 surrounded by a triangle of arrows on all plastic goods that surpass half an inch in size.
For quick reference, here is a list of the codes with the corresponding numbers:
- Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE or PET)
- High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
- Polyvinyl Chloride (P or PVC)
- Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE)
- Polypropylene (PP)
- Polystyrene (PS)
- Miscellaneous Plastics
Now let’s learn a little more…
- PETE or PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate): PET plastics are commonly found in beverage bottles, perishable food containers, and mouthwash. They are considered safe for your residential recycling bins, but they can absorb flavors and odors, so keep that in mind when using them for food storage. Luckily, these plastics are easily recycled, so correctly disposing of them is easy.
- HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene): One of the newest types of plastics. HDPE is the most commonly reused plastic because it is deemed safe for food contact by the FDA. HDPE is found in milk jugs, yogurt tubs, cleaning product containers, body wash bottles, and similar products.
- V or PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride): Found in credit cards, food wrap, plumbing pipes, tiles, windows, and medical equipment, PVC is seldom recycled into new products because of harmful chemicals linked to a variety of ailments. Keep PVC items away from foods and drinks. Dispose of it in your trash bin.
- LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene): A very clean and safe plastic, LDPE is also found in household items like plastic wrap, frozen food containers, and squeezable bottles. More recycling programs are beginning to accept LDPE plastics, but it is still quite difficult to recycle. Plastic wrap is on the list of nonrecyclable items because of the damage it does to processing machinery.
- PP (Polypropylene): PP is sturdy, can withstand high temperatures, and is considered a safe plastic. As a result, it is found in Tupperware, car parts, thermal vests, yogurt containers, and even disposable diapers. Residential recycling services like JRM usually accept this plastic.
- PS (Polystyrene): PS or Styrofoam is cheap and easy to create, and it’s found everywhere. However, Styrofoam is notorious for leaching harmful chemicals, especially when heated, and for poor recyclability. Since most recycling programs do not accept Styrofoam in curbside recycling it usually ends up in the landfill.
- Miscellaneous Plastics: SPI code seven is used for all plastics not part of the other six types. Despite their inclusion in popular items such as sunglasses, computer casing, nylon, compact discs, and baby bottles, these plastics contain the toxic chemical bisphenol-A or BPA, and they are tough to recycle. Plastic #7 is primarily recycled into plastic lumber and specialized products when recycling plants do accept it.
There are exceptions to every rule. It is good to keep in mind that these everyday plastic items can never be included in your residential recycling and should go directly into your trash bin:
- 3-Ring Binders
- Bubble Wrap
- Spray Bottle Pumps
- Disposable Plates
- Deli & Salad Plastic
- Disposable Silverware