Plastic Recycling Symbols - the down low on what they mean

Day one of Plastic Free July is off to an interesting considering I realised I didn’t understand what the numbers meant within the triangle on the plastic bottle. I figured if I don’t know what they mean, a few of you won’t either. So here goes -a quick guide for all things number in the triangle related.

1. PETE or PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate)

  • Thin, clear plastic.
  • Used to make: water bottles, soft drinks, mouthwash bottles, salad dressings and table spread jars.
  • Although considered safe, this plastic is often known to accumulate bacteria.

Can be recycled into furniture, carpet, paneling, fibre, polar fleece and tote bags.

2. HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene)

  • Thick, opaque coloured plastic.
  • Used to make: milk/juice containers, cleaning containers, shampoo bottles, cereal box liners, detergent bottles, yogurt tubs, toys, and cosmetics.
  • Considered to be a safe plastic and has a low risk of leaching into the product.

Can be recycled into pens, recycling containers, picnic tables, benches, fencing and detergent bottles

3. PVC or V (Vinyl)
**DANGEROUS PLASTIC -Endocrine disruptor

  • Plastic can be either rigid or flexible.
  • Used to make commercial grade food wrap, mattress covers, bibs, windows, food and cleaning containers.
  • This plastic may contain phthalates that are used to soften the plastic. Phthalates are linked to a multitude of health issues as it is a known hormone disrupter. PVC also contains DEHA, which can be carcinogenic when exposed to long-term. DEHA has also been linked to loss of bone mass and liver problems.

Can be recycled into paneling, flooring, speed bumps, decks, mats and roadway gutters.

4. LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene)

  • Soft and flexible plastic.
  • Used to make: squeezable bottles, grocery store bags (ie. bread bags), food wraps, produce bags (i.e. salad bags, chips) and garbage bags.
  • Considered to be a safe plastic.

Can be recycled into compost bins, paneling, trash can liners and cans, floor tiles and shipping envelopes.

5. PP (Polypropylene)

  • Hard and flexible plastic.
  • Used to make: yogurt/ice cream containers, sauce bottles, syrup bottles medicine bottles, drinking straws, margarine tubs, and diapers.
  • Considered to be a safe plastic.

Can be recycled into brooms, auto battery cases, bins, pallets, signal lights, ice scrapers and bicycle racks.

6. PS (Polystyrene/Styrofoam)
*** AVOID, non-recyclable

  • Rigid plastic
  • Used to make: meat trays, styrofoam coffee cups, opaque plastic cutlery
  • Incredibly difficult to recycle. It also poses a health risk by leaching toxic chemicals when heated (ie. used as a hot drink cup?!)

Can be recycled into rulers, foam light switch plates, egg cartons, vents, foam packing, and insulation.

7. Other/Miscellaneous -including acrylic and nylon

  • Used to make: 5-gallon water bottles, clear plastic cutlery, lining of metal food cans, DVD cases and ‘bullet-proof’ materials.
  • This other list contains plastics such as polycarbonate which contains that toxic substance bisphenol-A (BPA) which everyone seems to be marketing now when it comes to selling plastic drink bottles. BPA has been linked to infertility, hyperactivity, reproductive problems along with a host of other issues.

Can be recycled into: Plastic lumber and other custom-made products.


Jasmine MayheadComment