Plastic plays a crucial part in our current society. It’s everywhere – the most common material used to make products for our convenience – containers, cell phone casing, plastic bags, etc. Have you ever thought, for a moment, about the meaning of those symbols found in your plastic-made items?
Plastic recycling symbols show the forms of resin used to create the material. These representations are established following the international Plastic Coding System, and are customarily delineated as a number (from 1 through 7) enclosed by a triangle or a plain triangular loop (also known as the Mobius loop), with an acronym of the specific material used, right underneath the loop.
Here are succinct descriptions of each of the 7 recycling symbols frequently used, today:
1 – PET or PETE (Polyethylene Terephalate Ethylene)
Light weight, low-priced, and easy to fabricate, Polyethylene Terephalate Ethylene is the most prevalent plastic material in use today. PET is primarily used in beverage bottles, food receptacles, and peanut butter containers. It can be remade into polar fleece, fibre, carpet, etc. The requirement for this plastic among recyclers is relatively strong, but at present, the recycling rate for this material has remained low at 20%.
2 – HDPE (High Density Polyethylene)
High Density Polyethylene is more durable and more impervious to chemical degeneration, this material poses a relatively low chance of spreading chemicals when used as container for food and drinks. It is largely used as containers for everyday household chemicals (shampoos, degreasers, etc.), juice bottles, milk jugs, etc. This can be reused into floor tile, drainage, new HDPE bottles, pipes, etc.
3 – PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)
PVC has been tagged as a health hazard – it has been noted to typically drain chemicals when used as containers. PVC is mainly used for piping, window cleaner bottles, siding, etc. It has chlorine and will dispense toxins if burned. PVC should not be used in food preparation or food packaging. It can be reprocessed into mudflaps, panels, mats, etc.
4 – LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene )
LDPE is the material present in plastic bags, clothing, furnitures, etc. Resilient and flexible, it is perfect for packaging, insulation, and sealing. LDPE, through many curbside recycling programs, can be reconstituted into cans, compost bins, and landscaping tiles.
5 – PP (Polypropylene)
Polypropylene is most suited for boiling fluid receptacles and is likewise made into brooms, straws, ketchup bottles, etc. PP can be reprocessed into rakes, brooms, trays, etc.
6 – PS (Polystyrene)
PS is the top component for insulation and is used in foam products like expanded polystyrene (EPS), commonly known as Styrofoam. It is found in carry-out food containers, meat trays, CD cases. PS contains benzene, a cancer-causing substance and should not be burned. It is reprocessed into insulation, packaging, plant beds, etc.
7 – OTHER (Polycarbonate)
Recycling symbol 7 – OTHER signifies materials not belonging to any of the other 6 resin categories. OTHER may also signify a hybrid resin made up of a mishmash of those materials. It is mainly found in children feeding bottles, flak jackets, business signages, five-gallon water jugs, etc. It can be recycled into plastic planks and other tailor-made objects.
Not all number 7 plastics are polycarbonate, a handful are even plant-based. Polycarbonate has become the axis of dispute in recent years, as it is discovered to leach BPA (bisphenol A), a hormonal disruptor that may disastrously influence gestation and fetal growth.
Plastic recycling symbols are designed essentially to help the staff in recycling plants in properly segregating materials for processing. A rudimentary knowledge of these icons can also help us in ascertaining if the plastic item were handling at home are risk-free for us and our children.