We’ve all seen the triangle logos with a number between 1 - 7 on plastic items, but what do the numbers mean? Are they a prediction for the lottery (as an aside, I know that statistically there’s just as much chance as getting 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 in the lottery as any other number, but it just doesn’t seem right) or a way of sorting the plastic so it can be recycled in the most efficient way.
Correctomundo, it’s the second one, but what do they mean?!?
Ok, here goes;
Number 1, which has the catchy full title of poly(ethylene terephthalate) goes by the nickname of PETE or (PET). This is used to make plastic films, plastic bottles and believe it or not clothing.
Number 2 is high-density polyethylene and known as (HDPE). This can be found in plastics of all kinds.
Number 3 or poly(vinyl chloride) is known simply as V, a bit like M but a bit less secret service. Records, water pipes and vinyl car tops all contain this.
Number 4 is low-density polyethylene (LDPE) and is used for plastic films and bags.
Number 5 is polypropylene (PP) and its uses include fibres for rope and indoor-outdoor carpeting.
Number 6 is the dreaded squeaky polystyrene (PS) and is unfortunately not usually recyclable.
Number 7 is the all encompassing ‘anything else’.
Once you’ve sorted out your numbers, the next step is to work out what numbers your local council takes away for recycling. I live in Greenwich, which boasts one of the best recycling facilities in the country and so takes anything and everything, but most councils only take 1 – 3, some only take 1 & 2.
For things you no longer want, and can’t recycle, use sites like Freecycle and ebay to help clear your clutter without filling up landfill and as ever, think about what plastic you can reduce in the first place, if you are fed up with the excessive wrapping you accumulate on your supermarket shop, take as much as you can off and leave it there. Consumer power!
For more information please see http://dl.dropbox.com/u/21130258/resources/informationsheets/plastics.htm
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