If you’ve ever looked at the bottom of bottles or containers you recycled, you would have noticed that there are different numbers on them, but what do they mean? The numbers depict how they should be recycled, and they offer information regarding what chemicals were used to make the bottles or containers. The numbers are often found in a triangular shape at the bottom, with numbers ranging from 1-7. Some of the numbers even mean that recycling them should be avoided.
Plastic #1 is “ PETE or PET” which means polyethylene terephthalate. This plastic is the most picked up by curbside recycling programs. It’s usually clear and is used to make soda and water bottles. Although plastic number one is safe, it is known to let bacteria accumulate. When recycled it is turned into tote bags, carpet, paneling, furniture, and much more.
Plastic #2, known as high density polyethylene, or “HDPE”, is typically opaque, and is also picked up by recycling programs. This plastic is one of the 3 that are considered a safe, and has a lower rate of leaching. Plastic #2 is found in milk jugs, juice bottles, shampoo bottles, yogurt and butter tubs, all the way to motor oil bottles and even, cereal box liners. It is recycled into pens, picnic tables, lumber, benches, detergents bottles, just to name some.
Plastic #3, “V or PVC” or vinyl. This can be used to make plastic wrap, detergent bottles, plumbing, medical equipment and more. Vinyl is not often picked up by recycling programs. Some of these plastics still can contain phthalates, which can cause numerous health problems, ranging from, developmental issues, liver problems all the way to miscarriages. Never cook or burn this plastic. This plastic is recycled into, paneling, speed bumps, decks, flooring, and gutters.
Plastic #4, is LDPE, low density polyethylene. Considered to be safe, #4 is found in squeezable bottles, bags, clothing, carpet, bread bags, and food wraps. Curbside programs aren’t known to pick up this plastic, but are starting to accept it. LDPE will be recycled into trash can liners and cans, floor tiles, and shipping envelopes.
Plastic #5, PP, standing for polypropylene. Plastic #5 is becoming more accepted by recycling programs, and is one of the safer plastics to look for. Yogurt containers, syrup and ketchup bottles, and medicine containers are made with Polypropylene. When recycled, brooms, bins, pallets, traffic lights, and more are made with PP.
Plastic #6, Polystyrene, or styrofoam. Styrofoam is difficult to recycle and bad for the environment. This plastic also causes health risks with toxic chemicals, especially when heated or burned. It is not accepted by most recycling programs. Meat trays, egg cartons, and disposable plates and cups are made with styrofoam. Although this should be an avoided recycling product, when recycled Polystyrene, is made into vents, packaging and insulation.
Plastic #7, Miscellaneous plastics. These are plastics that don’t fit in to the other categories. This mix contains, BPA, Polycarbonate, and other toxins. These plastic should be avoided. BPA has been linked to hyperactivity, reproductive issues, and even infertility. Plastic #7 makes sunglasses, phone cases, computer cases, and bullet proof materials.
Which plastics are safe to recycle and which should you avoid? You should avoid recycling 3,6, and 7. instead look for, 2,4, and 5, are the safest to recycle. These are plastic that are safe for human and animals uses. Number 1 is safe but should be avoided as well, because it can create bacteria. For the sake of preserving our planet from harm, its best to avoid using plastics completely, you can do this by switching to glass or paper.