Have you ever wondered what the numbers, or recycling symbols mean at the bottom of plastic bottles and containers? Did you know that, while the use of all plastics should be limited if at all possible, some are safer than others? It’s time to learn a little bit about the various plastics you use and drink/eat from every single day, and what impact they have not only on you, but also the environment. Every plastic container or bottle has a recycling symbol. The symbol is a number, ranging from 1 to 7, within a triangle. While you may think nothing of these symbols, they can actually offer a great deal of information regarding the toxic chemicals used in the plastic, how likely the plastic is to leach, how bio-degradable the plastic is, and ultimately the safety of the plastic.
Plastic #1 (PETE or PET) is usually clear and used to make soda and water bottles. It is recycled into tote bags, furniture, carpet, paneling, fiber, and polar fleece.
Plastic #2 (HDPE (High Density Polyethylene) is typically opaque and picked up by most curbside recycling programs. This plastic is one of the 3 plastics considered to be safe, and has a lower risk of leaching. It is recycled into pens, recycling containers, picnic tables, lumber, benches, fencing, and detergent bottles, to name a few.
Plastic #3 V or PVC (Vinyl) is found in shampoo bottles, clear food packaging, cooking oil bottles, medical equipment, piping, and windows. It is recycled into paneling, flooring, speed bumps, decks, and roadway gutters.
Plastic #4 LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene) rests among the recycling symbols is most found in squeezable bottles, shopping bags, clothing, carpet, frozen food, bread bags, and some food wraps. It is recycled into compost bins, paneling, trash can liners and cans, floor tiles, and shipping envelopes.
Plastic #5 PP (Polypropylene) typically found in yogurt containers, ketchup bottles, syrup bottles, and medicine bottles. It is recycled into brooms, auto battery cases, bins, pallets, signal lights, ice scrapers, and bycycle racks.
Plastic #6 PS (Polystyrene) is found in compact disc cases, egg cartons, meat trays, and disposable plates and cups. It is recycled into egg cartons, vents, foam packing, and insulation.
Plastic #7 All of the plastic resins that don’t fit into the other categories are placed in the number 7 category. It is found in sunglasses, iPod cases, computer cases, nylon, 3- and 5-gallon water bottles, and bullet-proof materials. It is recycled into plastic lumber and other custom-made products.