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Monday, June 9, 2014

Recycling Plastics 101

By Melissa Hincha-Ownby


Did you know that there is more than one type of plastic? It is important to have a basic understanding of the different types of plastics if you plan to make the most of your recycling program. The good news is that there is an easy-to-read labeling system to help guide you.

recycling plasticPlastic containers are labeled with the following resin identification codes (RIC):

Type 1 – PET - Polyethylene Terephthalate
Type 2 - HDPE - High-density Polyethylene
Type 3 - LDPE - Low-density Polyethylene
Type 4 - Vinyl - Poly Vinyl Chloride
Type 5 - PP - Polypropylene
Type 6 - PS - Polystyrene
Type 7 - Other - Mixed Plastics

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Consumers can use this information to determine whether or not certain plastic types are collected for recycling in their area. Contrary to common belief, just because a plastic product has the resin number in a triangle, which looks very similar to the recycling symbol, it does not mean it is collected for recycling.”

My curbside recycling program accepts all plastics that are type 1 through type 6, including lids (as long as the lids are attached to the original container). Some recycling programs however, aren’t able to accept lids, attached or not, and others can only accept a few types of plastics. Check with your waste management provider as requirements vary from company to company.

If a plastic isn’t picked up in your curbside recycling program, don’t just throw it away. Collect the products and drop them off at a community recycling center – from county-run facilities to your local big box store, there are often several different locations to drop off plastics for recycling.

So, what happens to all of these recycled plastics? Recycled plastic is used to make plastic bottles, clothing, household goods and even automobile interiors. Once you understand how your community recycling program works, you can maximize the amount of plastic products you send to a recycling facility.

When it comes to plastic recycling, what is the biggest hurdle you face?

Photo courtesy of Melissa Hincha-Ownby.

1 Comment so far

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On Tuesday, June 10, 2014, E wrote

They should have mentioned plastic BAGS somewhere. As far as I know, most curbside programs will NOT take bags but most big box retailers will now (grocery stores, Target, etc.). They even take Ziploc bags that are clean and dry.


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