Plastic performs an vital role in our consumer-driven lifestyle. It’s found all over – the most common material used to make things for our convenience – water bottles, appliances, packaging, etc. Have you ever inquired, for an instant, about the explanation of those symbols found in your plastic-made items?
Plastic recycling symbols denote the categories of resin utilized to synthesize the plastic. These emblems are specified in accordance to the international Plastic Coding System, and are usually delineated as a number (from 1 through 7) circumscribed by a triangle or a plain triangular loop (also known as the Mobius loop), with an acronym of the exact resin used, right below the triangle.
Here are summarized definitions of each of the 7 recycling logos universally used, today:
1 – PET or PETE (Polyethylene Terephalate Ethylene)
Light weight, low-priced, and simple to fabricate, Polyethylene Terephalate Ethylene is the most common plastic resin in use today. PET is mostly used in beverage bottles, oral hygiene bottles, and ovenable food trays. It can be reconstituted into polar fleece, fiber, carpet, etc. The necessity for this material among recyclers is quite strong, but at present, the recycling rate for this material has remained low at 20%.
2 – HDPE (High Density Polyethylene)
High Density Polyethylene is tougher and less vulnerable to chemical degeneration, this material presents a relatively low chance of seeping chemicals when used as receptacle for food and drinks. It is chiefly used as containers for common household chemicals (shampoos, detergents, etc.), engine oil bottles, milk jugs, etc. This can be recycled into dog houses, picnic tables, laundry detergent bottles, recycling containers, etc.
3 – PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)
PVC has been recognized as a health hazard – it has been noted to consistently drain chemicals when used as containers. PVC is mainly used for piping, wire coating, cooking oil bottles, etc. It contains chlorine and will let off toxins if incinerated. PVC should be excluded in food preparation or food packaging. It can be reprocessed into mudflaps, speed bumps, binders, etc.
4 – LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene )
LDPE is the material present in tote bags, frozen food wrapping, dry cleaning bags, etc. Durable but also stretchable, it is ideal for packaging, insulation, and sealing. LDPE, through many curbside recycling programs, can be reconstituted into paneling, shipping envelopes, and floor tiles.
5 – PP (Polypropylene)
Polypropylene is most suited for hot fluid receptacles and is also used in brooms, medicine bottles, ketchup bottles, etc. PP can be reused into bins, brushes, auto battery cases, etc.
6 – PS (Polystyrene)
PS is the most common component for insulation and is used in foam products like expanded polystyrene (EPS), generically known as styrofoam. It is made into disposable food containers, meat trays, disposable cups. PS contains benzene, a cancer-causing chemical and should not be burned. It is reconstituted into insulation, vents, plant beds, etc.
7 – OTHER (Polycarbonate)
This symbol lumps materials not belonging to any of the other 6 resin groupings. OTHER may also signify a hybrid resin made up of a mishmash of those materials. It is widely found in infant milk containers, soup can liners, store signages, three-gallon water jugs, etc. It can be remanufactured into plastic planks and other made to order objects.
Not all number 7 plastics are polycarbonate, a handful are even organic. Polycarbonate has become the focus of controversy in recent years, as it is observed to leach BPA (bisphenol A), a hormonal disruptor that may may potentially alter child-bearing and fetal development.
In today’s health-mindful society, a rudimentary understanding of the materials that we allow to come into contact with our food or our skin can frequently amount to the difference between a vibrant family and a household jeopardized by unsafe chemicals and carcinogens. Even if recycling symbols are largely devised to aid staff in grouping materials (in recycling centers), recognizing these logos is gradually becoming a staple in safeguarding our own health and that of our families.