Decoding Plastic Recycling from Ideal Bite
Plotting your plastic recyclables’ next move? O, well, let us help you plan their X-it with our walk-through of the different kinds (check the Plastic Identification Code - the number in the little arrow symbol on the bottom of the container), which ones are safer for you in the first place, which are usually recyclable, and which ones aren’t so much. Then check with your local recycling facility to see what types of plastics it accepts. Game on.
1. We’re #1.
Plastics labeled #1 are PET or PETE (polyethylene terephthalate) and fall into the safer plastics category, since they’re not known to leach any toxic by-products (such as BPA, which is linked to cancer). Disposable water bottles, peanut butter jars, and TV dinner trays are typically made of PET. These can usually go in the recycling bin no problem.
2. Takes 2 to tango.
The #2 plastics are made of HDPE (high-density polyethylene), which also has a low leaching risk. These include butter tubs, milk and juice jugs, household cleaner containers, and shampoo bottles, and you can usually toss them straight in your curbside recycling bin.
3. The 3 Rs.
Poor #3 plastic - it’s in the not-so-recyclable and not-so-safe category. This type’s PVC (polyvinyl chloride), and it’s arguably the worst plastic for the planet and you. It can emit mercury, phthalates, and dioxins, which can cause reproductive abnormalities; and it’s also usually not recyclable, so try to avoid it when possible. You’ll often encounter it in cooking oil bottles, food packaging, and plastic wrap.
4. Free 4 all.
LDPE (low-density polyethylene) makes up our #4-labeled plastics. These include plastic grocery bags, produce bags, and food wrap, and the good news is that it has a low risk of leaching. Many curbside recycling programs will take your #4s, but if yours doesn’t, see if your local grocery store will at least accept your plastic bags (if you’re not already bringing your own).
5. Gimme 5.
Clap it up for #5 plastics - made of PP (polypropylene) - which include yogurt containers, straws, and syrup and ketchup bottles. You can usually toss these straight in the recycling bin, and they’re not likely to release toxic chemicals into whatever they’re containing.
6. Let’s talk about 6, baby.
This one’s a mixed bag. Made of PS (polystyrene), these plastics include stuff like egg cartons and Styrofoam, which can release styrene, a possible carcinogen, when heated. Thankfully, you can recycle some Styrofoam, like those little packing peanuts - reuse them by taking them back to a shipping company that accepts them in your area or just by packaging them in another box yourself.
7. Stairway to 7.
The #7 plastics fall into the somewhat ambiguous “other” category - some are safe, but others can contain BPA. With these plastics - which include things like gallon-size water bottles, baby bottles, compostable plastics (nontoxic and break down as fast as paper), and biodegradable plastics - it really just depends. Check out Earth 911 and enter your zip to find out where to send this stuff in your area.
8. Lid ‘er rip.
The caps on a lot of containers are made of a different plastic than the container itself. And many recycling centers won’t accept the caps and lids, since they’re too small and can fall through or jam recycling equipment. The bright side: Aveda stores have a great take-back program for twist-on caps, which turns them into - what else? - new bottle caps. (Or for bonus points: Get in touch with your craftier side to reuse these babies.)