Is Your Plastic Recyclable?

Teresa Madaleno

Not all plastics are the same and that means you have to be selective when you toss items in a recycling bin. Figuring out whether or not you have a recyclable plastic item isn’t as hard as some people think.

Most plastics have a recycling symbol, which is usually on the bottom of the item. For example, if you turn a plastic bottle over and look at the bottom, you should see a triangle formed from arrows. This triangle will have a number from one to seven stamped inside of it. This tells you what kind of plastic you have. These 7 different numbers or categories are referred to as Resin Identification Codes (RIC).

So if you have a #1 on a plastic like a water bottle, this means it has the highest recycling value. If you keep this bottle in the sun too long, it can leak toxins into the container.

Many science experts suggest that we stay away from #3 Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), which is found in pipes, as well as #6 Polystyrene (PS) found in Styrofoam food and drink containers. These chemical additives have the potential to leach out or evaporate into the air over time.

Here’s a list of the plastic categories for easy reference:

#1 – Polyethylene terephthalate (PETE)
#2 – High-density polyethylene (HDPE)
#3 – Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
#4 – Low-density polyethylene (LDPE)
#5 – Polypropylene (PP)
#6 – Polystyrene (PS)
#7 – Other

Typically #1 is used for soda bottles and cooking oil containers that are meant for single-use. You will see #2 stamped on containers of milk, cleaning fluids, shampoo, and laundry detergent. The plastic trays that hold fruit and sweets are #3, while #4 and #5 are usually yogurt cups, pill bottles, lining for diapers, and toys. You will also find that some toys are labelled #6. Styrofoam cups and takeout containers are also #6. The last category, which is #7, is really a mix of recyclable and non-recyclable items, including items that contain acrylic, nylon, and fiberglass.

It takes just seconds to check the RIC on the bottom of a plastic container. In fact, many people say it becomes as habitual as checking their cell phones.