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A Sustainable Design Blog

Not all Plastics are Re-Created Equally

So you picked up that tasty new flavor of yogurt you’ve been dying to try, but before tossing it into the cart you flip it over to make sure it’s recyclable – because you’re a responsible consumer. Yup. It has that familiar chasing arrows icon with a #5 (whatever that means), so all is good right? Well … not necessarily.

Those confusing numbers and letters were developed to help the recycling companies separate plastics for reprocessing. Unfortunately, we've all become trained to think that symbol means something is indeed 'recycled' or 'recyclable'. But that's not the always case. At least not in your area.

This code, such as the #5 mentioned above is merely used to identify which type of plastic the container is made from and has nothing to do with it's inherent recyclability. Each city/county has a different system so be sure to check with your local recycling program to see which plastics they take back. Number 5, for example, is very rarely accepted even though most dairy containers use this material (sorry yogurt lovers). On the flip side, the easiest plastics to recycle, and therefore the most commonly accepted, are #1 and #2. Sadly though, #7, which is a catch-all for 'other' plastics including the eco-sounding 'bioplastic' is the most difficult and therefore the least likely to be recycled. :(

To find out where to take your #5 plastics, check out the Gimme 5 Program:
http://www.preserveproducts.com/recycling/gimme5.html

For more detailed information on recycling by the numbers visit:
http://environment.about.com/od/earthtalkcolumns/a/recycleplastics.htm

Or for more general information about plastic recycling check out:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plastic_recycling

Gage Mitchell is the Principal / Creative Director at Modern Species. For more posts from him, click here.

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Put all your eggs in one basket and – WATCH THAT BASKET.- Mark Twain