Don’t let the chasing arrows on plastic fool you … it does not necessarily mean it’s recyclable or reusable. It is very important to familiarize yourself with the 7 numbers before using or reusing plastic as it can be harmful to your health and the environment.
As it is hard in todays society to avoid plastic it is best to try to minimize it’s use. For example, most reusable exercise, hiking and sports plastic water bottles do not have a recycling number on them, so why would we use them? In cases such as this it’s best to use a stainless steel water bottle to protect your health and the environment. If you choose to still use a plastic water bottle be sure to familiarize yourself with the plastic it’s made of and clean it properly to minimize bacteria growth.
Another example is plastic baby bottles. They are made of recyclable plastic number 7 which is a mishmash of all plastics or plastics that can not otherwise be categorized. These plastics may contain BPA, and although the Government of Canada claims the public should not be concerned they want to be prudent and further reduce exposures of it to newborns and infants under 18 months. The Government of Canada also claims “Based on recent advances in science, we are now aware of potentially harmful effects we could not detect before.” In this case it may be best to use glass or stainless steel baby bottles.
Listed below is information about the 7 recycling numbers, it’s use and reuse, health and environment hazards, and if they are recyclable or not. Have a read ….
Recycling Plastic Number 1 – PETE or PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) is a clear plastic used in things such as water bottles (Evian, Nestle, Aquafina etc.), soda pop, dishwashing liquid, mouthwash, some liquid medicine and squeezable bottles such as ketchup, salad dressing, honey, mayonnaise, relish, mustard, BBQ sauce etc. It is “considered” to be a safe plastic and is recyclable. This plastic is for “one time use” and it is NOT to be reused, especially when not cleaned properly as it can cause leaching and bacteria growth which can be harmful to ones health.
Plastic number 1 is recycled into carpet, furniture, textile, tote bags, polar fleece, paneling and straps.
Recycling Plastic Number 2 – HDPE (High Density Polyethylene) is typically not clear and is used in things such as medicine bottles, such as Advil and Tylenol, vegetable oil containers, most household cleaning products, some toys, some plastic bags, cereal box liners, motor oil bottles and toiletry containers. This plastic is accepted for recycling and it is said that research has shown that this plastic does not leach so it is safer to reuse. If reused, it is very important to clean it properly and not in the dishwasher. This plastic like all other plastic should not be placed in the microwave.
Plastic number 2 is recycled into benches, recycling containers, waste bins and fencing.
Recycling Plastic Number 3 – V (Vinyl) or PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) is used in food wrap, pipes and parts for pluming, detergent bottles and some kid and pet toys. This plastic is known to contain phthalates which may cause a number of health problems including miscarriage. It also contains DEHA which may cause bone loss and liver problems. PVC is known as the “poison plastic” because it contains toxins which can leach. Plastic number 3 is not recyclable and should not be reused for food or things pertaining to children.
This plastic is recycled into flooring, computer wires, other pluming parts, speed bumps and paneling.
Recycling Plastic Number 4 – LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene) is found in plastic used to package bread, sunflower seeds, nuts, frozen foods and it is also found in some shopping bags, clothing, carpet and trash bags. Although it is considered to be a safer plastic some recycling programs do not accept it. Before reusing this plastic always consider what it was used for in the first place.
This plastic is recycled into plastic lumber, compost bins, cans, landscaping boards, garbage can liners and floor tiles.
Recycling Plastic Number 5 – PP (Polypropylene) is found in containers used to package yogurt, sour cream, butter and cream cheese. It is also used to make tupperware. This is considered to be one of the safer plastics and reusable. If reused, it is very important to clean it properly and not in the dishwasher. This plastic, like all other plastic, should not be placed in the microwave. Recycling programs accept this type of plastic.
This plastic is recycled into battery cases, plastic racks, brooms, bins, trays and ice scrapers.
Recycling Plastic Number 6 – PS (Polystyrene) is a styrofoam which is very to brake down and is bad for the environment. It is found in packaging, disposable plates and cups, disc cases, egg cartons, packaging meat trays, plastic picnic cutlery and takeout food containers. Never microwave this type of plastic. This product is not accepted by all recycling programs.
This plastic is recycled into insulation, photo frames, coat hangers, foam, packing material and vents. This plastic should be avoided as much as possible.
Recycling Plastic Number 7 – OTHER is a mishmash of all the plastics that do not fit in the other 6 categories. It also includes plastics that contain polycarbonate, which contains the toxic bisphenol-A (BPA) which has been linked to infertility, hyperactivity, reproductive problems and a number of other health issues. This plastic is used to make baby bottles, sippy cups, nylon, sunglasses water cooler bottles and car parts.
This plastic is not recyclable and not for reuse, unless it has the PLA compostable coding and just as any plastic it should be cleaned properly before reuse.
Source and additional information:
- Government of Canada – Consumer Information – Safety of Plastic Containers Commonly Found in the Home
- Government of Canada – BPA
- Canadian Plastics Industry Association
- Government of Canada – Office of Consumer Affairs (OCA)
- Toronto Recycling symbols & environmental eco-labeling