How to Decode Your Plastic
Do you throw all of your plastic containers and bottles in the recycle bin? A little-known fact is that in some cases not all plastic can be recycled through your local program! There are many different types of plastic, making it challenging for recycling facilities to accept all plastic products.
What Type of Plastic Do I Have?
The Society of the Plastics Industry developed a classification system to identify different types of plastic based on its chemical makeup. Plastic products are printed with a number, ranging from one to seven, that is known as the SPI code. This number is accompanied by chasing arrows, which look similar to the recycling symbol. Don't be fooled – this symbol does not necessarily indicate that the item is recyclable in your community.
It is important to identify the SPI code printed on your plastic item and check whether your local recycling program is able to accept it. Most recycling programs accept some, but not all, types of plastic. Be sure to recycle only those plastics collected by your local program!
1 (PETE or PET)
- Water, soda, and juice bottles
- Peanut butter, salad dressing, and jelly jars
- Microwavable food trays
- Single-use shopping bags
- Bottles for cleaners, shampoo, and detergent
- Cereal box liners
- Deli and meat wrap
- Pipes, siding, fencing, and railing
- Shrink wrap
- Bags for produce, bread, and frozen foods
- Container lids
- Yogurt tubs
- Medicine bottles
- Reusable containers
- Takeout containers
- Packing peanuts
- Disposable cutlery and cups
- Reusable water bottles
- Oven-baking bags
- Citrus juice containers
Items to Watch For
Plastic Shopping Bags
Single-use plastic bags cannot always be placed in your recycling bin and loose plastic bags can actually clog the equipment at the recycling center. Check with your local government or recycler to find out if plastic bags can be recycled in your area. If not, many grocery stores and "big box" stores have recycling bins for single-use plastic bags.
Plastic Caps and Lids
Historically, consumers were advised to remove caps from their bottles and throw them away before recycling since caps and lids are often made from a different type of plastic. Advances in processing technology now allow caps to be recycled in most places, but you should confirm with your local recycling program first.
Keep It Clean
Regardless of which category your plastic container falls under, always be sure to empty or rinse out your containers before placing them in the recycling bin. Dirty containers, leftover liquids, and food waste can contaminate all of the other items in the recycling bin.