1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7: Recycling by Number
Plastic is like trees: it’s everywhere, and you know it when you see it, but you probably can’t explain the different types. And why would you?
At BVR Waste & Recycling, plastic is one of the main materials we see and process. It’s also the most complicated material to recycle, in part because consumers don’t know what types can be disposed of and in which ways.
Most plastic products are stamped with a resin code, which is a number between 1 and 7 inside a small triangle made of arrows. The presence of a resin code doesn’t necessarily mean that the product can be recycled. It’s the number inside of the triangle that counts because each number corresponds to a different type of plastic.
PET or PETE (Polyethylene terephthalate)
There’s a good chance you’ve held something made of this plastic-type today. PET or PETE is what’s used to make bottles for sodas, water bottles, and other drinks. It’s also used to make ketchup bottles, peanut butter containers or other popular food containers. PET/PETE products CAN be recycled.
HDPE (High-density polyethylene)
HDPE plastics are also extremely common. They’re those used to make milk jugs, shampoo bottles, cleaning product containers, and detergent bottles. HDPE products CAN be recycled.
PVC (Polyvinyl chloride)
PVC is a soft, flexible plastic, so it’s used for a huge assortment of household products. Plastic tubing, toys, plastic trays, and furniture are often made out of PVC. PVC products CAN NOT be recycled.
LDPE (Low-density polyethylene)
A lot of plastic wrappings are made of LDPE plastic. It’s also used to make grocery bags and fresh produce bags, sliced bread bags, among other things. LDPE products CAN SOMETIMES be recycled.
PP is used to make the food containers used for products like yogurt, sour cream, and butter. It’s also made into straws, rope, carpet, and bottle caps. PP products CAN SOMETIMES be recycled.
Styrofoam products are made from PS plastic, so it’s commonly used to make disposable coffee cups, packing peanuts, coolers, and to-go food containers. PS products CAN SOMETIMES be recycled.
Any type of plastic that doesn’t fit into one of the first six categories falls under this heading. Products stamped with a 7 are often made from multiple plastic types or out of other types of plastic that can’t easily be recycled. #7 products CAN SOMETIMES be recycled.
Plastic is evolving. The industry leaders such as the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) and the American Chemistry Council (ACC) are developing ways to overcome the challenges of recycling. In the next few years, we can expect to see changes that will benefit consumers, producers, and our environment.