Now, I don’t want to be the one to tell you you’re doing it wrong. But you probably are. And that’s totally okay, because in all honesty until I started researching how to recycle I didn’t really know how to do it myself.
How to Recycle Properly!
Recycling has been around for over 30 years, so I’ve grown up conditioned to throw things in the blue bin. If it’s paper, throw it in the blue bin. If it’s plastic, throw it in the blue bin!
But I wasn’t aware how many different types of plastic there are and to my dismay there are quite a few that either aren’t as safe as we think or we’re throwing in the recycling bin that cannot be recycled and end up in the trash anyway.
Once it’s on the curb to be picked up we forget all about it, don’t we?
Did you know…
Did you know that there are little symbols on the bottom of most plastic containers? There are seven different numbers surrounded by the recycling logo – but just because it’s surrounded by the recycling logo doesn’t mean it is readily recyclable!
Today I’m going to talk about these seven little numbers and what they are, so that you know what is safe to throw in your recycling and what should actually be going in the trash.
1. Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE/PET)
Readily recyclable, this is one of the most inexpensive and common plastics. You’ll find this in most water and pop bottles as well as makeup packaging. It is intended for single-use products.
Unfortunately, at high temperatures this plastic can leach antimony which is a chemical that is naturally occurring and often used in the creation of battery alloys along with flame retardants.
This plastic can be reused to make fleece, carpet and furniture as it is a form of polyester.
2. High Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
Considered one of the safer plastics and readily recyclable. This form of plastic is usually opaque and is much more durable to high temperatures. HDPE is made from petroleum.
This is often used in the packaging for laundry detergents, household cleaners and shampoo bottles.
High Density Polyethylene can be reused and made into pens, fencing materials, detergent bottles and shopping bags.
3. Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC/V)
PVC is rarely recycled and the use of phthalates makes it much more flexible. Phthalates are toxic and can cause quite a few health problems.
Vinyl is often used in plumbing, windows, house-siding, detergent bottles, inflatable toys, shower curtains and even IV bags.
When recycled (though not common) it can be made into flooring, paneling and decks.
4. Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE)
Some recycling programs are beginning to accept this plastic, although you should check to make sure in your jurisdiction. LDPE is another safer plastic that is made from petroleum. It is a durable plastic that can be flexible.
You’ll find this in squeezable containers (toothpaste,) furniture, and food bags.
This plastic can be reused to make garbage liners, floor tiles and shipping envelopes.
5. Polypropylene (PP)
This form of plastic is readily recyclable in most jurisdictions (again, check to make sure where you live!) PP is another safer form of plastic that can withstand high temperatures – though it is not advised to microwave or subject plastic to these high temperatures.
You will often find baby bottles, microwavable containers and margarine containers made from this form of plastic.
It can be reused and made into trays, brushes and brooms.
6. Polystyrene (PS)
PS is made from petroleum and can either be a hard plastic or styrofoam. This plastic is not easily recyclable. It is often laden with toxic chemicals that will leach when subjected to high temperatures. Polystyrene is not good for the environment.
You can find this in disposable cups, packaging and foam take out containers.
Although not accepted in most recycling facilities, this form of plastic can be reused in take out containers, insulation and other foam products.
Miscellaneous is often a blend of multiple plastics therefore almost all recycling facilities will not accept this form of plastic. In most cases Miscellaneous plastics will be made from Polycarbonate which is tainted with Bisphenol-A (BPA) an endocrine disruptor.
You are likely to find that computer cases and sunglasses are made from this form of plastic.
Although unlikely to be recycled it can be made into custom-made plastics and plastic lumber.
And just in case you couldn’t remember those… Here’s an infographic for you!
How to find out what is readily recyclable in your area
Most cities have their own recycling programs which outline what they readily accept. All you have to do is search for your local recycling facility (or google your city name and recycling information.)
Most websites will provide a recycling guide; for instance where I live the paper goods and plastic/metal goods have to be sorted into separate bins.
This is how the recycling is sorted where I live:
The first recycling bin…
Where I live my recycling program accepts #1, #2, #4, #6 plastic but do not accept black plastics. Into one recycling bin. However stretch wrap, pet food bags and chip bags are garbage.
The second recycling bin…
Is mainly used for paper products. This includes newspaper, cardboard, juice cartons and tetra-paks. However, they want soft plastic bags to be wrapped into one and placed on top, and on top of that they want glass containers.
Any large corrugated cardboard is to be bundled with twine and placed beside the blue bins.
I find it easier to remember what cannot be recycled in my area; so plastic numbers 3 and 7 are not to go in the recycling bin. It’s pretty simple once you get the hang of it!
However, if you really want to do good for the environment try and limit your use of plastics all together. 😉