…What Do Those Numbers Mean??
Have you ever turned over a water bottle and seen a small recycling symbol with a number in the middle? Almost ALL plastics have a symbol located somewhere on the packaging. Many people think that this is simply an indicator that the material is recyclable, however, this is not ALWAYS the case. That little symbol means a lot more than you think! Let’s learn!
Plastic symbols (aka. Resin Identification Codes) mean TWO things:
1. The material IS CAPABLE of being recycled in SOME markets.
HOWEVER…This does not mean that ALL recycling programs can process that specific number. The recyclability of a plastic is dependent on the capabilities of the processing facility by which a recycling stream is being processed. Some recycling programs can process all numbers 1-7, like American Disposal Services. Other facilities and haulers will only accept plastics 1 and 2. Others will take a select variety of the plastic numbers.
2. An indicator of the type of RESIN used to make the item.
Plastics are classified in a numbered system that is made up of 7 different types of resins that are used to make ALL plastics.
No. 1: PET
The most commonly used and commonly found plastic. It’s inexpensive, lightweight, and super easy to recycle since almost all recycling programs accept this material.
Examples: Fizzy drink bottles (soda), mouthwash containers, peanut butter jars, salad dressing packages, and frozen ready meal packages
Recycled into: Polar fleece, fiber, tote bags, furniture, carpet paneling, or new containers
No. 2: HDPE
High Density Polyethylene
Also very common in curbside recycling programs. HDPE is widely used to prevent leaching in products because it is very durable. (Image shows a collection of colored HDPE bottles)
Examples: Milk jugs, juice bottles, bleach, detergent, cleaners, shampoo bottles, some trash/shopping bags, butter and yogurt tubes
Recycled into: New bottles, pens, floor tile, drainage pipes, benches, picnic tables, or fencing
No. 3: PVC
PVC is weather resistant and very durable which is why it is used for a variety of outdoor applications.
Examples: Food tray, bottles, mineral water and shampoo, decking, siding, windows, and piping
Recycled into: Decks, paneling, mud flaps, cables, flooring, and mats
No. 4: LDPE
Low Density Polyethylene
LDPE is a flexible plastic that is becoming more widely accepted in curbside programs.
Examples: Squeezable bottles, frozen food trays, bread bags, shopping bags, or dry-cleaning bags. Please note: Plastic films (bread bags, shopping bags, or dry cleaning bags) are not accepted in your American Disposal curbside bin or cart as their flexible nature causes the bags to clog the gears at our MRF. Please make sure to collect these separately and recycle at a bag collection point at your local grocery store.
Recycled into: Trash can liners and cans, shipping envelopes, decking, landscaping tiles, floor tiles, or park benches
No. 5: PP
PP has a high melting point and is often used to make containers that must accept hot liquids. These were previously not accepted in many curbside programs but are now becoming more widely accepted.
Examples: yogurt containers, syrup bottles, caps, straws, medicine bottles, margarine tubs, and microwavable meal trays
Recycled into: battery cables, brooms, brushes, ice scrapers, bicycle racks, rakes, bins, pallets, or trays
No. 6: PS
Polystyrene can be made into rigid OR foam plastics (aka Styrofoam). American Disposal Services will ONLY pick-up rigid PS.
Foam PS (Styrofoam) is not accepted in your bin. This material is only recycled by large-scale manufacturers using the product and baling it separately from all other materials in the recycling stream.
Examples: Foam: styrofoam food trays, meat trays, or egg cartons
Rigid: pill or medicine bottles, CD cases
Recycled into: Insulation, light switch plates, egg cartons, vents, rulers, foam packing, carry-out containers
No. 7: Other
Any other plastics that do not fall into any of the above categories fall into this ‘catch-all’ plastic category.
Examples: Three- and five-gallon water bottles, ‘bullet-proof’ materials, sunglasses, DVDs, iPod and computer cases, signs and displays, and certain food containers
Recycled into: Plastic lumber, or custom-made products