You have probably seen the numbers with the chasing arrows on plastic products. The number is the resin code which indicates what type of plastic the product is made of. Some people think it is a recycling code, but actually it is not. The American Plastic Council decided to use the chasing arrows symbol ---- why?
Maybe it was to make their product seem more recyclable and, therefore, more marketable. There has been controversy over the use of this symbol since recycling plastic is not really recycling in the usual sense.
The inconvenient truth is that plastic can never be truly recycled. A more accurate statement is that plastic can be downcycled. Downcycling is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of lesser quality and reduced functionality. For example, clear drinks bottles and food packaging made of polyethylene terephthalate can be downcycled into fabrics such as fleece, strapping and carpets; but cannot be recycled into clear drinks bottles or food packaging of the original quality.
In Bermuda, we don't recycle (or downcycle) plastic, but it's still useful to understand what the codes on the bottom of plastic bottles, bags, cups and containers mean.
Plastic means mouldable - so clay and wax could properly be defined as plastic - but these days the word tends to be used to mean synthetic polymers made from oil. There are more than 50 different types of plastics but six common types have been given codes which help identify them for recycling. There is a seventh category for "other" plastics.
|Code||Name||Common domestic uses||Recycling details|
|PET (or PETE)
|Clear drinks bottles, food packaging such as fruit punnets, textile fibres (polyester).||PET bottles are collected for recycling in most countries. Recycled PET is generally used in fabrics such as fleece, strapping and carpets. New technology allows PET to be recycled into new food packaging.|
High density polyethylene
|Milk bottles, shampoo and cleaning product bottles.||HDPE bottles are collected for recycling in many countries. They are recycled into garden furniture, litter bins and pipes. New technology allows HDPE to be recycled into new milk bottles.|
|V / PVC
Vinyl/ Polyvinyl chloride
|Window frames, drainage pipes, shower curtains, clothing, toys, large squash bottles.||Not generally collected from households for recycling. PVC use in packaging is in decline.|
Low density polyethylene
|Carrier bags, some bottles and containers, yokes holding four or six-packs of cans together, lining or laminating cardboard containers.||Carrier bags are collected by some supermarkets and recycled into low-grade uses such as bin bags. Not generally collected from households for recycling. However, mixed plastic recycling is expected to be under way within five years.|
|Soup pots, margarine tubs, most bottle tops, waterproof clothing, carrier bags.||Not generally collected for household recycling, although it has good potential. However, mixed plastic recycling is expected to be under way within five years.|
|Take away cups, yoghurt pots, cushioning of breakable objects in packaging.||Not generally collected from households for recycling. Some commercial polystyrene is recycled.|
||Includes acrylic glass (perspex), nylon and polycarbonate. Items made from a blend of plastics also fall into this category.||Not generally collected from households for recycling.|
But remember.... reducing or re-using trumps recycling any day!