How to find out which plastics are recyclable?

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If you are like me and want to do your best to reduce the amount of plastic in this world, then I feel your pain. But even so, it is difficult for those who don’t have a lot of time on their hands. Trying to find which plastics can be recycled or reused is an arduous task! There are too many options and not enough information! Plastic types, colors, and numbers all mean different things when it comes to recycling. For example- blue 1 has one type that can be recycled but red 10 does not…dozens of other examples exist as well! It’s hard enough sorting out what goes where without trying to remember which color goes with what number.

But, between the numbers and letters, there are a few types that stand out. These types happen to be the most common used in our everyday lives. Some examples include: PETE HDPE PVC LDPE PS/PP PPPS! (That’s right…there is also PS/PPP- it’s called polystyrene foam) (But let’s be honest…who buys foam anymore?) These represent the most commonly used types of plastics and the easiest to recycle. And, knowing these types helps a lot when trying to find out where you should bring your bottles/bags of recyclables.

1. PETE: (Polyethylene terephthalate) Number 1 symbol is seen most commonly on soda, water and juice bottles. All types of plastic bottles are recyclable in curbside recycling programs, but #1 plastic has the highest rate of being recycled. It will be difficult to find a store that will accept #1 plastic for recycling. It is the only type that cannot be recycled in any other way other than curbside programs or redeeming bottles and jars at local stores.

2. HDPE: (High density polyethylene) Number 2 symbol is seen most commonly on milk jugs, juice & yogurt containers, shampoo bottles, detergent containers, water bottles and plastic grocery bags. It is the most commonly recycled type of plastic and can be recycled in curbside recycling programs (except New York) as well as stores that accept #2 plastics. HDPE has a higher rate of recycling than any other type because they are generally very large products so it is cost effective for manufacturers to continue to take back and recycle the containers because of its size. Many large recycling companies have a dedicated machine to handle HDPE plastic!

3. PVC: (Polyvinyl Chloride) Number 3 symbol is seen commonly in shrink wrap, window blinds, vinyl products such as flooring and pipes and many toys. Many types of plastics that start with a symbol 3 are NOT recyclable in curbside recycling programs or stores! PVC is also referred to as Vinyl Plastics. However, it can be recycled by taking these items to a store such as Walmart. Click here for more information on PVC, and click here for a list of Walmart stores that accept PVC plastic for recycling.

4. LDPE: (Low density polyethylene) Number 4 symbol is very commonly seen on food and household products such as medical equipment, appliances, shopping bags, dry cleaning bags. This type of plastic has a higher rate of being recycled than any other type because it is used on so many different types of products and it is generally very large in size for most items, which makes it cost effective.

5. PS/PP: (Polystyrene foam) Number 6 symbol is commonly seen on egg cartons, meat trays, take-out containers, styrofoam cups and insulation materials such as acoustic ceiling tiles. Styrofoam is one type of plastic that is NOT recyclable in any curbside recycling programs or stores. It can be recycled by taking these items to a store such as Walmart. Click here for more information on Styrofoam, and click here for a list of Walmart stores that accept styrofoam for recycling.

6. PP: (Polypropylene) Number 5 symbol is seen on shampoo bottles, medicine bottles, yogurt containers and many other plastic items made of harder plastics. Polypropylene has a higher rate of being recycled than any other type because it is used on so many different types of products and it is generally very large in size for most items, which makes it cost effective.

7. PS: (Polystyrene Foam) Number 7 symbol is commonly seen on Styrofoam cups and egg cartons, meat trays, take out containers and frozen food containers. This type of plastic is NOT recyclable in any curbside recycling programs or stores! It can be recycled by taking these items to a store such as Walmart.

8. OTHER: (Other types of plastics) Number 8 symbol is seen commonly on yogurt containers and frozen food containers as well as toys and other similar plastic items. This type of plastic is NOT recyclable in any curbside recycling programs or stores! It can be recycled by taking these items to a store such as Walmart, Kmart and Target.

Many other types are made up and sold everyday so it is important that you check with your local recycling center for more information about what types they accept.