Have you ever noticed a small number on your plastic water bottle and wondered what it was for? Turns out these numbers are really important! Each number refers to the type of plastic the item is made of and helps you determine whether the item can be recycled. Think of it like a miniature, personalized cheat code. There are 7 of them, so let's take a look at what each of them mean.
#1: Polyethylene Terepthalate
Plastic #1, abbreviated as PET is very common. You’ve probably interacted with it today! PET plastic is mostly used in clear plastic water bottles and food containers, and easily accepted at recycling centers
#2: High Density Polyethylene
#2 plastic is studier and denser than plastic #1. Think of the kind of plastic your shampoo bottles are made of. This plastic is also widely accepted to be recycled
#3: Polyvinyl Chloride
This plastic is flexible and can be found in items such as children's toys and plastic pipes. Unfortunately, due to the composition of the plastic, the process of recycling this material may pose health threats to people and the environment.
#4: Low Density Polyethylene
Plastic #4 is most commonly found in plastic wraps (think saran wrap), plastic shopping bags, and juice containers. While this plastic can be recycled, it often only takes place at specific facilities, and therefore has to be separated from other plastics to be recycled properly.
Polypropylene is usually found in yogurt and food containers. Sometimes you’ll find a little number 5 on the bottom of your plastic water cup! Like plastic #4, this type of plastic is only accepted at certain facilities, but can usually be recycled.
The name of this plastic gives you a hint… styrene… styrofoam! As the name suggests, plastic #6 is what styrofoam and some types of insulation are made from. As you may already know, this plastic is not recyclable.
#7 plastic is essentially everything that doesn’t fit into the above categories. Because a lot of #7 plastics are made of mixed plastics, it’s harder to categorize, but one example is plastic water bottle lids. This type of plastic is not easily recyclable.
So what’s the lesson here? Plastic is hard to recycle! Plastics 1, 2, and 5 are the safest to recycle while plastics 3, 4, 6, and 7 should be avoided. If you’re still confused, double check with guides such as this one! It’s also important to check what your local recycling facility can accept with tools such as how2recycle.
If you’re thinking plastic might be more trouble than it’s worth, you’d be right! At Sun and Swell we prefer to avoid the plastic all together. We are proud to say every product available on our website is packaged in 100% compostable materials. While we understand that the transition away from single-use plastic is a challenging one, our hope is that we will inspire others to join us in a greener, more sustainable future. Will you be next?