When recycling, people don't seem to pay much attention to which plastics can and cannot be recycled. Just because an item is plastic, or has plastic properties, does not mean that it is easily recyclable. Not only is the number in the recycling triangle ignored, but people don't think twice about what they are throwing away. Here are some of the do's and don'ts in the recycling world and an explanation of what the plastic recycling numbers mean.
PETE is BPA free and one of the most common recycled categories because it contains soda bottles, water bottles, and even some packaging. Items recycled in this category are intended to be single use products. If used more, it may increase the risk of leaching and bacterial growth after it has been recycled. For these items, the plastic is crushed, shredded, and then reprocessed to make new PETE bottles. They can also be spun into polyester fiber, which is used for stuffing of pillows or other products, fleeces, carpets, and more.
High Density Polyethylene
This is the MOST COMMON category that people recycle product. HDPE is BPA free and is made up of milk jugs, detergent bottles, oil bottles, toys, and plastic bags. HDPEs are considered one of the safest forms of plastic and can be made into picnic tables, plastic lumber, waste bins, park benches, and other products that require durability and weather resistance.
PVCs are soft and flexible plastics that are usually clear plastic food wrappings, cooling oil bottles, teething rings, pet and child toys, and more. This is considered a “poison plastic” because it contains leaching toxins. When reused, they can be made into sheathing products, such as plastic pipes, parts for plumbing, window frames, garden hoses, cables, or arbors.
Low Density Polyethylene
Most times, LDPE plastics are products such as shrink wraps, dry cleaner bags, grocery bags, bread bags, or squeezable bottles. These plastics are less toxic than others and are BPA free, which makes them relatively safe for use and re-use. Often, these materials are made into plastic lumber, landscaping boards, garbage liners, and floor tiles.
Being heat resistant, PP plastics are tough and lightweight. They often have a barrier against grease, moisture, and other chemicals and can only be recycled in certain areas. This category usually consists of disposable diapers, cereal liners, pails, bottle tops, chip bags, margarine and yogurt containers, straws, packing tape, and rope.
STAY AWAY FROM THESE PLASTICS! Though these plastics are inexpensive, lightweight, and easily formed, they break up easily and disperse into natural environments which is unhealthy. This AVOIDED category includes Styrofoam, take out containers, egg cartons, CDs, egg cartons, packing peanuts, home construction, and more.
With all OTHER plastics, the reuse and recycle protocol is not standard. There is more potential for chemical leaking into food and drinks and can ONLY BE REUSED if marked PLA. This category consists of baby bottles, sippy cups, water cooler bottles, car parts, and other dangerous plastics.
Overall, recycling can be incredibly beneficial. You just have to make an effort to help reuse and recycle to help save the environment.
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