1. No buying or acquiring new plastic. (We can do that!)
2. No cooking with plastic or STORING FOOD (harder…) in plastic.
3. Minimize all other plastic use.
Getting rid of plastic from our lives in 2011 would be an incredibly difficult challenge. Did you know that plastic use only started to become widespread in the US in the 1950’s? Everything we touch in our daily lives today probably has plastic in it, from clothing, to contact lenses, to medical equipment, computers, cars and even chewing gum! On our road to becoming less dependent on plastic, not only do we need to recycle it, we need to figure out how to stop using it! In the meantime, while plastic alternatives are becoming more common, recycling the plastics we use is better than throwing them in the trash.
Take a moment with us to learn a little bit about which plastics can and cannot be recycled and the difference between some of the plastics we encounter every day in our lives.
The community that we live in, recycles plastics 1-7. Sounds like a goodthing but what in fact does that mean? We thought we could help all you Climate Mamas and Papas understand a little better what those tiny triangles and numbers on the bottom of your plastics mean, so you can help keep these plastics out of landfills and figure out which ones can be recycled. Check with YOUR municipality as not all areas recycle all plastics. According to Earth911, less then 1% of all plastics are recycled, yet recycling one plastic bottle can conserve enough energy to light a 60-watt light bulb for up to six hours.
Remember too, where plastics come from – oil; the “number one” fossil fuel contributing to global warming and climate change. Plastic bottles of all shapes and sizes also play a big part in filling up our landfills. In the USA, North Carolina, Massachusetts and Wisconsin all have laws against throwing plastic #1 and #2 bottles into landfills. What about your town or county?
Enough statistics, lets get to the nitty gritty – what do those little triangles mean? The triangle symbol was developed by the Society of Plastics Industry in 1988 and is used universally to mean that something is recyclable. The numbers inside the triangles or the universal resin code (1-7) tell you what kind of plastic is being used. The number isn’t mandatory though, so lots of plastics still don’t contain one. For those that do, let’s look at what they mean for recycling but also for your health! Keep in the back of your mind the numbers 2, 4 and 5 we will tell you why later on…
#1 is used primarily for water, soft drink and beer bottles and is best known as PET or PETE (polyethylene terephthalate). These bottles are considered “single” use and shouldn’t be reused, as they can’t be cleaned properly and bacteria will build up in them; an unhealthy combination all around!
#2 is used in things like milk jugs, juice bottles, and shampoo and detergent bottles. It is better known as HDPE or high-density polyethylene. It is considered “safe” as it isn’t known to leach chemicals easily.
#3 is used in cooking oil bottles, clear food packaging, piping and siding. You might know it better as PVC, or vinyl. PVC contains dioxins and you should never heat it and cook with it!
#4 is often used for squeezable bottles, dry cleaning and plastic bags. It is known as LDPE or Low Density Polyethylene. It is generally considered fine to reuse.
#5 is found in yogurt containers, syrup bottles and caps and is known as PP or Polypropylene. You can reuse these containers, but don’t put them in the dishwasher. Eventually, all plastic does break down.
#6 is most commonly used for disposable plates and cups or carryout containers. It is known as PS or polystyrene, but is best known by its trademark name Styrofoam. This is a bad resin for leaching, so don’t reuse.
#7 is used in large water bottles, sunglasses, DVDs and hard plastic bottles. It is a combination of a variety of plastic resins that don’t fit into other categories. One of the #7 resins used is Polycarbonate, a hard plastic that has been getting a lot of press lately for containing BPAs or bisphenol A.
Did you remember the numbers 2, 4 and 5? If you want to reuse some of those plastic containers that are piling up in your house before you recycle them, make sure they have these numbers 2, 4 or 5 as they are your best bets because – they don’t break down easily.