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While it may seem
like a secret code, the symbols present on plastic recyclable items convey what
items are made of. Plastic containers like milk jugs and even food wrap contain
a code for the resin type. The Society of the Plastics Industry created
the resin identification coding system in 1988 as a way to improve
identification of resin types in the waste stream, according to the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency website. Although many consumers may fail
to notice them, businesses and organizations that handle a large volume of
disposable containers could greatly benefit from learning about what those
recycling symbols mean to ensure they recycle them instead of throwing them in
misperception regarding the plastic resin codes is that they mean a product
made of plastic is recyclable. The plastics industry has a vested
interest in perpetuating this myth. In fact. The codes embossed on plastic,
typically numbered 1 through 7 simply indicate the type of plastic used in the
product. With enough money and energy, anything is recyclable. But
the reality is that over 90% of plastic is not recycled in large part because
there’s no viable aftermarket for the recycled material.
are seven common recycling symbols and their meanings:
This type of
plastic is made from polyethylene terephthalate (PETE or PET). Some of the
most common plastic items are made from PETE or PET, making it easy to recycle
as many recycling facilities accept this resin type.
major form of plastic that is recyclable, high density polyethylene
(HDPE) is often included for recycling services offered by municipalities. HDPE
containers are durable and have one of the highest recycling rates.
This third kind of
plastic resin, called vinyl (V) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Plastic #3
is hard to recycle and is known to contain phthalates that may cause
health problems if humans are exposed.
Although not many
recycling facilities have services to recycle low density polyethylene
(LDPE) because products with this resin are difficult to recycle, an
increasing number of plants are starting to accept it.
PP products are
also typically recyclable in most major cities and considered to be one of the
most widely used plastics in the world.
polystyrene (PS) or Plastic #6 is also a very common plastic, it's not
accepted by most recycling facilities because its expensive to recycle.
The last resin
category encompasses all other or miscellaneous plastics,
including polylactic acid (PLA), which is a biodegradable
and compostable material.