180px-drinking_water1.jpgFor the many confused as to the meaning of that number enclosed in triangular arrows on the bottom of your coffee cup, water bottle, sandwich bag or other plastic container, we have prepared this easy guide. Special thanks to National Geographic’s, Green Guide, where much of the source information originated.

1.gifPOLYETHYLENE TEREPHTHALATE (PET or PETE) – (Soft drink bottles, water bottles, beer bottles, mouthwash bottles, peanut butter containers, salad dressing containers, juice bottles, vegetable oil bottles)
Bottles made with PET are considered safe for single use. Repeat using is not recommended as the plastic is porous and it has been known to permanently absorb flavors and bacteria. Note! There are a limited number of reusable containers available that are made from this material, though for the reasons listed above, it is recommended that you avoid using them.

Bottles made with PET or PETE are widely accepted by municipal recyclers.

2.gifHIGH DENSITY POLYETHYLENE (HDPE) – (Milk containers, juice bottles, water bottles, bleach, detergent, and shampoo bottles, trash bags, grocery and retail carrying bags, motor oil bottles, butter and margarine tubs, household cleaner bottles, yogurt containers, and cereal box liners)
Considered one of the safer plastics. HDPE transmits no known chemicals into your food.

Most municipal recycling programs accept packaging made with HDPE. Recycled HDPE is used to make Drainage pipe, liquid laundry detergent bottles, oil bottles, pens, benches, doghouses, recycling containers, floor tile, picnic tables, fencing, lumber, and mailbox posts.

3.gifPOLYVINYL CHLORIDE (V or PVC) – (Window cleaner bottles, cooking oil bottles, detergent bottles, shampoo bottles, clear food packaging, wire and cable jacketing, medical tubing, with additional significant usage in household products and building materials, particularly siding, piping, and windows)
PVC is a plastic to avoid as it has been known to leech hormone disrupting phthalate plasticizers and lead into your food. Additionally, vinyl chloride, a primary building block, is a known human carcinogen.

PVC products are not recyclable and should not be incinerated because heat releases dioxin, another potent carcinogen and hormone disruptor.

4.gifLOW DENSITY POLYETHYLENE (LDPE) – (Squeezable bottles, breadbags, frozen food bags, tote bags, clothing, furniture, dry cleaning bags, and carpet)
LDPE is believed to be among the safer plastics, as does not transmit any known chemicals into your food.

Generally recyclable: Accepted at Whole Foods Market, Wal-Mart and at plastic bag recycling centers. Recycled LDPE is used to make Film and sheet, floor tile, garbage can liners, shipping envelopes, furniture, compost bins, paneling, trash cans, lumber, landscaping ties.

5.gifPOLYPROPYLENE (PP) – (Yogurt containers, syrup bottles, ketchup bottles, caps, straws, medicine bottles & diapers)
Also considered one of the safer plastics as it, too, does not transmit any known chemicals into your food.

Generally recyclable: Check with your local recycling program. Recycled PP is used to make signal lights, battery cables, brooms, brushes, auto battery cases, ice scrapers, landscape borders, bicycle racks, rakes, bins, pallets, and trays.

6.gifPOLYSTYRENE (PS) – Available in two forms: EXTRUDED POLYSTYRENE PS (STYROFOAM) – (take-out containers, clamshell take-out containers and coffee cups) and NON-EXTRUDED PS – (clear disposable takeout containers, disposable plastic cutlery and cups) –
Both forms of this plastic can leach styrene – a possible human carcinogen – into food. Scientists also believe that PS may also disrupt hormones or affect reproduction.

Generally recyclable: Check with your local recycling program. Recycled PS is used to make thermal insulation, light switch plates, egg cartons, vents, rulers, foam packing, carry-out containers.

7.gifPOLYCARBONATE (PC) – (baby bottles, 5-gallon water bottles, water-cooler bottles and the epoxy linings of tin food cans)
Whether or not packaging made from PC is safe is questionable at this time. Composed of a hormone-disrupting chemical called bisphenol A, which has been linked to a wide variety of problems such as cancer and obesity.

Not Recyclable:

7.gifPOLYLACTIDE (PLA) – (Baby bottles, some reusable water bottles, stain-resistant food-storage containers, medical storage containers)
Made from renewable resources such as corn, potatoes and sugar cane and anything else with a high starch content.

Not Recyclable: though they can be composted. Most decompose in about twelve days unlike conventional plastic, which can take up to 100 years.


Learn more about Recycling Symbols

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