What Plastic Can Be Recycled?

recycle

Let’s face it. Most of the things we touch these days are made out of some sort of plastic material. And every single piece of plastic ever made still exists. But 91% of that has NEVER been recycled.

We know there are valiant recycling efforts being made around the world, and with the growing awareness of the plastic epidemic, most cities have a designated recycling program put in place. But can all plastics be recycled?

The answer is no.

Just because the item in question has a triangle made out of three arrows on it, doesn’t mean it is recyclable- it just means it’s plastic. So it is important to know the difference between what we can and can’t recycle. And with certain plastics leaching out harmful chemicals, it is important to know what exactly you are touching and putting into your body.

Especially since most of the harmful plastics cannot be recycled anyway.

…But what ARE the different kinds of plastics?

 

YES, RECYCLABLE

 

1 POLYETHYLENE TEREPHTHALATE (PET) – Very common plastic. Even though these are recyclable, you do not want to reuse them over and over.

three-bottlesUsed to make: water bottles, soda bottles, fruit juices, cooking oils, ketchup, beer bottles, mouthwash bottles, salad dressings, (condiments, etc.).

  • Only about 25% of PETs are recycled every year.

 Alternatives: reusable bottles or drink out of glass bottles and aluminum cans, glass salad dressing and condiment bottles.

 

 

 

HIGH-DENSITY POLYETHYLENE (HDPE) – Thicker plastic. Deemed the ‘safest’ plastic out there.

milk-containerUsed to make: milk jugs, toys, containers, laundry detergent, plastic bags, park benches, picnic tables, truck bed liners, weather-resistant plastic, shampoo, conditioner, body wash bottles, bleaching agents, raised garden beds.

  • 30-35% of HDPEs are recycled every year in the U.S.

Alternatives: milk cartons, boxed laundry detergent, fabric bags, refill household products at your nearest bulk store.

 

 

 

POLYPROPYLENE (PP) – Most common form of plastic

potato-chips

Used to make: chip bags, cereal bags, diapers, bottle tops, butter, margarine, yogurt containers, STRAWS, packing tape, luggage, bumpers and most exterior borders of cars, rope, motor oil bottles.

  • Even though most common type of plastic, only 3% of PP is recycled in the U.S. each year!
  • PP is safe for reuse, so instead of recycling just yet, get the most use out of it by refilling them at bulk stores until you absolutely can’t anymore!

Alternatives: REUSABLE STRAWS, reusable water bottles, cloth diapers

 

NOT RECYCLABLE

 

POLYVINYL CHLORIDE (PVC) – Softer plastic and highly tolerant of sunlight and extreme weather and also HIGHLY TOXIC. It is called the ‘Poison Plastic’ for a reason.

pvcUsed to make: computer wire sheathing, plastic wrap, teething rings, inflatable pool toys, tubes, pipes, garden hoses, window frames, arbors, raised beds, trellises,

  • Only 1% of all PVC material is recycled!

Even though PVC is not recyclable, it can be re-purposed in certain applications. Just beware of the leching toxins and avoid use with food or children.

Alternatives: switch out your plastic wrap for a beeswax wrap or a silicone lid

 

 

LOW-DENSITY POLYETHYLENE (LDPE) – Not as durable as HDPE, and hasn’t been commonly recyclable in the past. But more companies are adapting to recycling LDPE so keep an eye out at a facility near you!

shopping-bagsUsed to make: Grocery bags, garment bags, bread bags, plastic lumber, landscaping boards, floor tiles, bubble wrap, garbage bags, squeezable bottles, furniture

Alternatives: replace grocery bags with reusable ones, sandwich bags with beeswax or silicone or metal alternatives, use a cloth bag when you go to a bakery for a loaf of bread

 

 

OTHER [Bisphenol A (BPA), Polycarbonate, and LEXAN] – This number includes many different kinds of plastics.

Used to make: nylon, acrylic, fiberglass, bullet-proof materials, DVDs, sunglasses, certain food containers, signs, displays, (some are recyclable and some are not)

!!STAY AWAY FROM BPA!!   BPA is a xenoestrogen, also known as an endocrine disruptor. (We will get more in depth of this epidemic later, but have you ever noticed that girls are developing and going into puberty at a much younger age? It’s because of the BPAs!) Look on the label for “PC 7”. used in baby bottles and sippy cups be very careful. Even if labeled as ‘non-leaching’, when heated, harmful chemicals may still be possible.

PLA- a new form of compostable plastic made out of corn starch. But don’t be mistaken by the terms. Even though it is compostable, it is NOT RECYCLABLE.

*Should always avoid #7s when it comes to children’s food and toys*

 

 

DO NOT USE, DO NOT RECYCLE.

 

POLYSTYRENE (PS) – a.k.a. Styrofoam – Although versatile and used heavily around the world, Styrofoam is made up of HIGHLY DANGEROUS CARCINOGENS. When you heat it in the microwave, it leaches styrene that is absorbed into your food. Styrene has been linked to reproductive system dysfunction.

styrofoam-faceIt is toxic to both humans and animals and has absolutely no reuse value.

As a civilization, we need to stop using styrofoam all together and find a better alternative.

Used to make: Togo boxes, togo cups, coffee cups, egg cartons, packing peanuts, rigid foam insulation, underlay for laminate flooring, disposable plates, meat trays, aspirin bottles, CD cases

Alternatives: reusable coffee cups, cardboard togo containers (or bring your own!), compostable or REUSABLE cutlery (everyone should have a set!)

 

 

Please make sure you are rinsing the food debris out of containers before recycling.

It is also important to note that you should NEVER BURN PLASTIC. OF ANY KIND.



 

 

We hope this information is helpful to the community. We encourage you to keep making the effort to recycle not only plastics, but everything that you can. Every effort counts. You count. The Future counts.

19 Comments

    1. The Team

      Correct. Plastic is an extremely inexpensive material and can be made out of many different compounds. With such a high demand in our society, manufacturers are only focused on creating a desirable products fast, instead of quality control and sustainability in mind. It is up to US to do our own research and pay attention to what we are putting in and on our bodies, because (sadly) no one is going to do it for us.

      Ashley,
      Founder

  1. This is a wonderful article! I hope EVERYONE sees this! I love the way you offer solutions/alternatives, like beeswax wrap. I didn’t know such a thing existed, but thanks to you, It’s going on my shopping list!
    Every single one of us working together CAN and WILL make a difference! Thank you for sharing!
    Peace, Love & Happiness,
    PeachMuM77

  2. Greg

    Hi! I love your website title!

    I wish there were more plastic recycling in the us. i just returned from living in Germany where almost everything is recycled…even food scraps! it took a couple of weeks to get used to the extreme recycling routine, but I was amazed at how little we actually had to “throw away” vs recycle. It also provided a lot of jobs for a lot of people that needed work.

    I really hope the recycling of plastics takes off and maybe even gets mandated here in the US.

    Thanks again for the post!

    1. The Team

      Greg,

      Thank you for the visit! Many countries are way ahead when it comes to recycling and composting. Makes you wonder a bit. But it all starts with us. I encourage you to research your local recycling center. Give then a visit and take a tour. See what kind of plastics they actually accept (because all facilities vary). And try to start a composting bin for your food scraps- makes great soil for a garden! Even if you don’t garden, donate it to someone that does! Look forward to changing the world with you.

      Ashley,
      Founder

  3. Max

    Hey Ashley,

    This was a very informative post. I actually learned quite a lot about plastics that I didn’t even know about before. If PVC is so toxic, how the hell are teething rings allowed to be made out of them? That just seems like a lawsuit waiting to happen.

    I live in China, and the Chinese are not the best when it comes to recycling. They give plastic gloves with many meals. Give out plastic cutlery with to go orders, and even if you go to somewhere like MacDonalds, they will put a plastic bag around your drink if you order to go! How fucking crazy is that?

    I don’t think they teach much about recycling here, although I have seen it more and more the longer I have lived in this country.

    Also, I try to use a Nalgene reusable bottle everyday. They are BPA free and are made to last a lifetime. I would recommend looking into them if you don’t have one already!

    Thanks for the great post.

    Cheers,

    Max

    1. The Team

      Max, Nalgene bottles are the best! However they are still made out of HDPE, which is still plastic. Its actually pretty difficult to find a completely plastic-free reusable bottle. Even my stainless steel Yeti has a #7 plastic screw-on lid. That would frustrate me to see businesses around me just using plastic bags for no real reason at all. All we can do is try to make a conscious shift and try to remember to say things like “no bag plase” or “no straw please”, etc. Thanks for the visit!

      Ashley,
      Founder

  4. Hello,

    In Germany where I live. Recycling is an important topic. In fact, most of the houses nowadays separate all kinds of trash for that exact purpose. in my shared apartment, we separate plastic products from anything else to be able to help with the recycling process. It is amazing how much we can learn from reading about such important topics.

    I never really knew there are so many types of plastics used in our daily life products. However, I am so amazed at one certain point you wrote POLYSTYRENE (PS) – a.k.a. Styrofoam which they use it with coffee cups, egg cartons, packing peanuts as you mentioned. Is this really even something they allow companies to do? I mean really? Since it is dangerous they should stop using this Styrofoam! For our health.

    Thank you for this new information for me!

    1. The Team

      It sounds like Germany really has it going on as far as recycling is concerned! We’re glad you all are doing your part. And about PS….We know, RIGHT?! We have even found clear, hard plastic drinking cups that are #6. We will have alternatives available soon. Thanks for your input and visiting out site!

      The Team

  5. Thank you for this article! I had no idea that most plastics are un-recyclable. I am really shocked that plastic shopping bags are fall into the un-recyclable category especially since most stores have a box you can put them in so they can be “recycled”. Where do those bags go?

  6. Wow, what a great article! Thanks for putting a picture of what the symbols to look for are. I had no idea about the dangers of plastic, and “short cuts” companies take to save a buck. You think there is a possible substitute? Would there be a way to convince companies to make the switch?
    -Amber

  7. Great Article. I am Old School and Now I know a lot more about Plastics and what We use daily.

    Wow, I think I will start to Recycle whenever possible. One thing I Hate is Seeing plastic bags Hanging in Trees and on fences.

    That was not a problem when I was a kid.

    Thanks for the Education & Information.

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