The recycling numbers you find on plastic bottles of milk, soda, and even Tupperware are used to help organize and identify the types of plastic they are made of. Some plastics can not be recycled and so recycle plant workers select only those plastic items with specific recycling numbers. Here is a brief explanation of what each of these recycling numbers mean:
- PET: this type of plastic is made of a material called polyethylene teraphthalate. This plastic is commonly used for soda bottles and food containers. This plastic is used to create plastic shopping bags. Unfortunately, once PET has been transformed into shopping bags, it can no longer be recycled.
- HDPE: Is made from a high density polyethylene that is used to make items like milk containers and is recyclable when the container is clear in color. Detergent bottles and other HDPE bottles that are sometimes colored are more difficult to recycle.
- V: items made from this type of plastic are rare, but recyclable.
- LDPE: LDPE or Low density polyethylene can be recycled, but in order to do so requires a large amount of energy. Creating a brand new LDPE product actually takes less energy to produce.
- PP: Food containers like those containing butter are made from polypropylene or PP. Although items made from PP are recyclable, there are so very few products made from PP that recycling plants generally don't make the effort to collect this form of plastic.
- PS: Plastic utensils, some food containers, and CD cases are made from PS or Polystyrene. The most notorious item made from PS is Styrofoam, which is usually not recycled but thrown in landfills.
- Other: Plastic items labeled #7 are often times not recyclable.
To some people, recycling seems like a loss cause. Recycling numbers are placed on plastic products to make it seem like there is some kind of progress when it comes to responsible waste management. When containers boast about using recycling products, they don't necessarily have to say how much recycled product they use. Sometimes, it could be 3% or even less, but the recycling numbers label can fool us into thinking that the problem has been solved. However, if we continue to put pressure on the corporations to stop supplying us with these products we can make a change. By surrendering and accepting their products we encourage them to continue making them. If we show our dislike for their products, hopefully, they will cease to produce them. So, continue to recycle and research exactly what it is you are purchasing, what harm it can do to you, and how it can harm the environment. If you're a business owner, look into waste management audits from recycling companies. They will not only provide recycling dumpster rentals and recycling roll off containers, they can help you decrease your waste and even save you from spending money unnecessarily.