How to Know Which Plastic Is Recyclable?

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recyclable plastic

At a time when plastic is one of the greatest global problems, most of us have now started to acknowledge the damage it creates to the world. Recycling plastic appeared as a solution to our consumerism behaviors, disguised in guilt-free, letting us feel as we’re doing our part when putting our plastic waste in the recycling bin. It is indeed evident that recycling itself cannot be the solution to our plastic problem. Otherwise, our oceans wouldn’t have more than 1.4 billion tons of plastic waste each year. Recycling is a complicated process that requires high energy, money, and time.

Not all plastic is recyclable, which means that we have produced different types of plastic with different characteristics. Therefore, just because we see the famous recycling symbol printed on the label of some plastic products, doesn’t mean it’s recyclable. The symbols on the product will help you know the real truth about what type of plastic it is. You will most often find the symbol at the bottom of the plastic product. The symbol will be a triangle made of three arrows (it quite resembles the original recycling symbol) with a number inside, from 1 to 7.

recyclable plastic

1. PETE or PET

Polyethylene Terephthalate. A common form of plastic completely recyclable, although it is not recommended to reuse it.  

Which products have this type of plastic:

  • Soda bottles
  • Mineral water
  • Medicine jars
  • Containers
  • Cooking oil
  • Fruit juices

2. HDPE

High-Density Polyethylene, known as the safest amongst other forms of plastic. A thicker type of plastic, used in a great number of products due to its extreme durability. You can recycle it and reuse it.

Which products have this type of plastic:

  • Laundry detergents
  • Cleaning products
  • Shampoo/conditioner/shower gel bottles
  • Milk jugs
  • Buckets
  • Toys

3. V or PVC 

Polyvinyl Chloride. A softer kind of plastic with a high tolerance to UV light. PVC, also known as “poison plastic,” contains several toxins which make it difficult to recycle. It is also recommended not to reuse these products. You may avoid this plastic as much as you can.

Which products have this type of plastic:

  • Plastic packaging
  • Food wrappers
  • Shower curtains
  • Inflatable toys
  • pipes/tubes
  • Bubble foil

4. LDPE

Low-Density Polyethylene. It is possible to recycle, just not everywhere. Yet, more recycling facilities are working to achieve this specific service.

Which products have this type of plastic:

  • Landscaping boards
  • Frozen food bags
  • Bread bags
  • Plastic lumber
  • Grocery bags
  • Bubble wrap
  • Six-pack-ring
  • Floor tiles

5. PP

Polypropylene. A lightweight but strong material. It is accepted and recycled at most recycling centers.

Which products have this type of plastic:

  • Snacks and cereals packaging
  • Butter package
  • Bottle caps
  • Yogourt containers
  • Diapers
  • Straws

6. PS

Polystyrene. Vastly used in several kinds of products, being most of them single-use. PS contains cancerogenic chemicals and using it is not recommended, especially after heated (for example, in the microwave). Not often recyclable, thus, avoid this type of plastic.

Which products have this type of plastic:

  • Takeaway boxes
  • Disposable plates
  • Yogourt bottles
  • Disposable cups
  • Egg cartons
  • CD cases

7. OTHER

Other types of plastic are made with the industrial chemical Bisphenol A (BPA), which may damage our health. Every time you see this type of plastic, you will have no way of knowing for sure whether it’s recyclable or non-recyclable. Even recycling corporations can’t tell sometimes. You may avoid this plastic as much as you can.

Which products have this type of plastic:

  • Baby bottles
  • Polycarbonate
  • Fiberglass
  • Polylactic
  • Acrylic
  • Fibers
  • Nylon

To Recap

  • #1 and #2 types of plastic are widely recycled;
  • #3 #4 #5 #6, #7 types of plastic are not recycled often or can only be recycled in certain areas. That is to say, avoid these types of plastic.

Now you know that even if you place all your plastic waste in the recycling bin, not all of it will gain a new form. That is to say, it won’t make any difference. Recycling can help us to deal with our plastic problem, but it is not the solution. Even if recycling were perfect, it would still require a significant amount of energy, money, and time. Therefore, purchasing a new plastic product would always be far cheaper than paying salaries to the recycling sector.

Contaminated Plastic Is Not Recyclable

When plastic goes to a recycling facility, it has to fulfill specific requirements to be accepted. Remember that dirty plastic won’t be recycled. Thus, it is crucial that you rinse every plastic product after being used and before taking it to the recycling bin. This way, your plastic waste can be transformed into a new useful product, and it won’t contaminate other plastic objects. Otherwise, it will be dumped in the closest landfill.

recyclable plastic

Our plastic waste still exists somewhere, even most of the plastic you have “recycled”. Thus, it is firstly in the hands of our leaders to provide us solutions to our plastic waste, AND it is our responsibility as consumers to choose wisely the type of products we buy.

This isn’t a problem to which we don’t know what the solution is. We all know what we need to do. Anyone can do it. We know how to dispose of it. We all know when we are acting selfishly and when we are caring, even if no one is watching.

You don’t really need to buy food wrapped in plastic. You have many other solutions to replace it and it’s just a matter of creating a new habit to include these changes in your daily life. Simple.

Naturally, no one is perfect and there are times when you need to buy something that includes plastic. Be smart about it. In other words, if you need to buy for example yogurt or cheese, buy the larger servings.

Make your grocer’s shop aware of this, if you are a consumer you may say your opinion, and they may consider it. To clarify, it’s everyone’s problem.

Pressure your government, tell them you do not accept that plastic should be in the environment. If they allow plastic to be produced, they should be responsible for its collection and its proper disposal. Once it becomes their problem, you’ll find that they will do something about it.