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Sep 04

10/01/18 - That Number on Plastic

Posted on September 4, 2020 at 3:53 PM by Jacob Smith

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE) recycling symbolWe've gotten many questions about recycling plastics. One question that is on peoples' minds is the numbers that we find on the bottom of many plastic items.

Not Necessarily Recyclable

We've heard from residents, neighbors, and friends: "I diligently check the number on the bottom of each plastic item before I place it into my cart!" This is not the best way to determine which plastic item should be recycled. This is because those numbers were created by the plastic industry, not the recycling industry, to identify the type of resin used to make the product. It does not necessarily mean the item is recyclable.

Only Bottles & Jugs

As a reminder, the only plastics that should go into our recycling carts or to be dropped off at community recycling drop-off center are plastic bottles and jugs. This would include:

  • Laundry detergent and fabric softener bottles
  • Milk and juice jugs
  • Shampoo/conditioner bottles
  • Soda bottles (2 liter or smaller)
  • Water and sports drink bottles

Please go by shape. Presently, the shape is a better indicator that an item is recyclable.

How It Was Made

Plastic bottles and jugs are generally made from the 1 and 2 resins. Other plastic items are also made from this type of plastic, but the type of plastic is only half the story. Whether an item is recyclable is also determined by how it was made.

For example, plastic fruit containers are not recyclable despite the type of resin from which they are created. The process to create them involves heat and that heat makes the item brittle. Brittle items shatter into many pieces before they can be recovered at our recycling centers.

Don't Go by the Numbers

Overall, please note that the numbers on the bottom of plastic items really just indicate what type of plastic was used to create the item. As of now, the best way to determine what plastic is recyclable is based on whether it is a bottle or jug.

Oh, and don't forget: place caps in the trash. Recycle only the bottle or jug.