Get enthusiastic about recycling plastic

A simple guide to recycling the seven kinds of plastic 

Allison Vanderzanden | Lifestyle Editor

Not all plastics are created equal, and which material they are made of determines whether and how they can be recycled. Learn more about the seven types of plastic — identified by the number inside a triangle of arrows on the bottom or back of products — and become a plastic recycling pro.

No. 1 PET or PETE: Commonly found in food containers such as bottles and jars, polyethylene terephthalate is recyclable with curbside recycling services. Avoid reusing such containers as the plastic is known to absorb bacteria.

No. 2 HDPE: High-density polyethylene is used to make cleaning product bottles, milk jugs and shampoo bottles, to name a few. Their sturdiness allows them to be reused, or they can be easily recycled curbside.

No. 3 PVC: A more flexible plastic, polyvinyl chloride is commonly found in household materials like piping and window siding, along with toys, cooking oil containers and food wrapping. PVC generally cannot be recycled, so avoid using it, or reuse it with caution as it contains toxins that should not be consumed.

No. 4 LDPE: Low-density polyethylene is the stuff plastic grocery bags, bread bags and six pack rings are made of. They tend to only be recyclable at certain drop off locations, such as a local store, but LDPE bags can also be reused for a while.

No. 5 PP: Straws, medicine containers, bottle caps, single-use cutlery and some food containers and bottles such as yogurt cups are made of polypropylene. Contact local recycling services to see if they accept no. 5 plastic in curbside bins.

No. 6 PS: More commonly known as Styrofoam, polystyrene is the plastic that makes up single-use food containers, takeout drinking cups and packing insulation. Many recycling services will not accept no. 6 plastics, so avoid using them when possible.

No. 7 Other: This category encapsulates any plastic not labeled above, including nylon, acrylic and combinations of different plastics. Their use should be avoided since it can be unclear what exactly is in them, and they usually are not accepted through curbside recycling services.

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