ehs wire



blog horizontal banner

Environmental Health and Safety Blog | EHSWire

Picking a Green Theme Part III

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Jul 7, 2009 8:35:50 AM

Even More Businesses, Charities & Groups that Can Help You be Green
Barbara Glynn Alves


As promised, this posting will focus on reducing the amount of plastics that go in the landfills. First, it is important to understand that not all plastics are created equal – many cannot (or are not) recycled, but most can be reused or even replaced with an alternative choice.

What do all those numbers mean?

The number code inside the little triangle you find on plastics containers was actually created by the SPI (The Society of the Plastics Industry, Inc.), the plastics industry’s trade association, over twenty years ago to help consumers and local governments sort plastics for recycling. It is called the Resin Identification Code and here is SPI’s own summary and guide to its correct use Which particular plastic resin type each number corresponds to and how you recycle them is this:

# 1 PETE or Polyethylene Terephthalate includes most beverage, many medicine containers, and waterproof packaging.

# 2 HDPE or High-density Polyethylene is most commonly found in heavier containers used for household detergents, milk, personal care products, motor oil and some plastic bags. You many even find toys made from HDPE

According to SPI, most communities currently only collect numbers 1 & 2, however, they claim that, together, these two categories represent nearly 96% of all the plastic bottles and containers used in the United States. So recycle through your regular recycling home pick-up or center.

#3 V or Polyvinyl Chloride is found in indoor plumbing, building materials, tubing, baby bottle nipples, food wraps and blister packaging, and cooking oil bottles.

There seems to be wide–spread disagreement about #3 in both its effect on the waste stream and its recycling potential. Few community programs currently accept #3 for pick up. New recycling processes are being testing in Europe.

#4 LDPE or Low-density Polyethylene is the stuff many plastic bags and bubble wrap are made from. There is also LLDPE#4 - Linear Low Density Polyethylene and MDPE#4 - Medium Density Polyethylene.

#4 is not recycled in many communities, especially if it has pigment. A website sponsored by several recycling organizations, grassroots citizens groups, and the American Chemistry Council has a drop off search feature on its website by state. It actually helps you identify exactly what plastic bags can be recycled

#5 PP or Polypropylene in most likely found in reusable food storage containers and many plastic grocery containers (yogurt, syrup, cottage cheese, etc.), some bags, most plastic food caps, and carpets. (It is also in diapers, but please don’t even think of recycling those)

PP is not recycled in most communities, but there is a national program sponsored by retail stores called Preserve Gimme 5

#6 PS or Polystyrene is (also referred to as styrofoam) is used for disposal drink cups, disposable cutlery and cups (clear and colored), food liner trays used for meat or baked goods, as molded packing protectors, and everyone favorite - packing peanuts.

According to Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers # 6 has a high post-consumer, post-commercial use rate and EPS is currently being recycled at an average annual rate of 10-12%. Since most community recycling operations don’t handle this, you will have to find a local drop off. The Alliance’s website offers this PDF.

#7 OTHER – aka – other! Meaning it is made up of a combination of layered or mixed plastics and cannot be recycled at all.

Other Choices

Consider an alternative to a disposable, but not very recyclable product. Personal dry cleaning garment bags are very popular now and easy to purchase. Here’s one: or ask your dry cleaning retailer. Of course whenever possible you should consider reusable grocery or shopping bags. I found this cute site And while it’s true that bottled water bottles are recyclable (usually # 1) their caps, shrink wrap and plastic thingies that tie them all together are not, so consider a stainless steel or reusable plastic bottle. Any web search will give you 100s of links.

Topics: Working Green, landfill

Subscribe to!


Latest Posts

Posts by category