WHAT DO THE PLASTIC RECYCLING SYMBOLS MEAN?

Day one of Plastic Free July is off to an interesting considering I realised I didn’t understand what the numbers meant within the triangle on the plastic bottle. I figured if I don’t know what they mean, a few of you won’t either. So here goes -a quick guide for all things number in the triangle related.

1. PETE or PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate)
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  • Thin, clear plastic.
  • Used to make: water bottles, softdrinks, mouthwash bottles, salad dressings and table spread jars.
  • Although considered safe, this plastic often known to accumulate bacteria.

Can be recycled into: furniture, carpet, paneling, fibre, polar fleece and tote bags.

2. HDPE (High Density Polyethylene)
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  • Thick, opaque coloured plastic.
  • Used to make: milk/juice containers, cleaning containers, shampoo bottles, cereal box liners, detergent bottles, yoghurt tubs, toys and cosmetics.
  • Considered to be a safe plastic and has a low risk of leaching into the product.

Can be recycled into: pens, recycling containers, picnic tables, benches, fencing and detergent bottles.

3. PVC or V (Vinyl)
**DANGEROUS PLASTIC -Endocrine disruptor
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  • Plastic can be either rigid or flexible.
  • Used to make commerical grade food wrap, mattress covers, bibs, windows, food and cleaning containers.
  • This plastic may contain phthalates that are used to soften the plastic. Phthalates are linked to a multitude of health issues as it is a known hormone disrupter. PVC also contains DEHA, which can be carcinogenic when exposed to long-term. DEHA has also been linked to loss of bone mass and liver problems.

Can be recycled into: Paneling, flooring, speed bumps, decks, mats and roadway gutters.

4. LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene)
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  • Soft and flexible plastic.
  • Used to make: squeezable bottles, grocery store bags (ie. bread bags), food wraps, produce bags (i.e. salad bags, chips) and garbage bags.
  • Considered to be a safe plastic.

Can be recycled into: compost bins, paneling, trash can liners and cans, floor tiles and shipping envelopes.

5. PP (Polypropylene)
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  • Hard and flexible plastic.
  • Used to make: yoghurt/ice cream containers, sauce bottles, syrup bottles medicine bottles, drinking straws, margarine tubs and diapers.
  • Considered to be a safe plastic.

Can be recycled into: brooms, auto battery cases, bins, pallets, signal lights, ice scrapers and bycicle racks.

6. PS (Polystyrene/Styrofoam)
*** AVOID, non-recyclable
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  • Rigid plastic
  • Used to make: meat trays, styrofoam coffee cups, opaque plastic cutlery
  • Incredibly difficult to recycle. It also poses as a health risk by leaching toxic chemicals when heated (ie. used as a hot drink cup?!)

Can be recycled into: rulers, foam light switch plates, egg cartons, vents, foam packing and insulation.

7. Other/Miscellaneous -including acrylic and nylon
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  • Used to make: 5-gallon water bottles, clear plastic cutlery, lining of metal food cans, DVD cases and ‘bullet-proof’ materials.
  • This other list contains plastics such as polycarbonate which contains that toxic substance bisphenol-A (BPA) which everyone seems to be marketing now when it comes to selling plastic drink bottles. BPA has been linked to infertility, hyperactivity, reproductive problems along with a host of other issues.

Can be recycled into: Plastic lumber and other custom-made products.

Sources:
https://www.mymanatee.org/home/government/departments/utilities/recycling/recycling-materials-pickup/main/0/text_files/file0/Recycling_Plastics.pdf
https://www.cleanup.org.au/PDF/au/cua_plastic_recycling_fact_sheet.pdf
http://mentalfloss.com/article/50207/what-do-those-recycling-symbols-and-codes-mean
https://www.recyclenow.com/recycling-knowledge/packaging-symbols-explained
http://learn.eartheasy.com/2012/05/plastics-by-the-numbers/
http://www.sustainability.vic.gov.au/services-and-advice/households/waste-and-recycling/be-a-recycling-champion

 

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