It’s in bottles, containers, wrapping, and other everyday items. Plastic is as versatile as it is recyclable. By recycling the plastics you use every day, you can reduce your impact on the environment and help businesses cut costs. However, not all types of plastics are created equal. The number within the recycling symbol on plastic containers provides a wealth of information about their safety, biodegradability and recyclability. Here’s a 101 of what these various SPI codes mean.
1. PETE or PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate)
Commonly found in beverage bottles, perishable food containers and mouthwash, clear PET plastics are generally considered safe, but can absorb odors and flavors from foods and liquids stored in them. Most recycling programs accept this plastic. PET plastics are recycled into carpet, furniture, and fiber for winter garments.
2. HDPE (High Density Polyethylene)
HDPE is another commonly recycled plastic deemed safe. HDPE products have a very low risk of leaching into foods or liquids. You’ll find this plastic in milk jugs, yogurt tubs cleaning product containers, bodywash bottles and similar products. Many children’s toys are also made from HDPE. Recycled HDPE is made into pens, plastic lumber, plastic fencing, picnic tables and bottles.
3. V or PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)
Found in food wrap, plumbing pipes, tiles, windows and medical equipment, PVC is seldom recycled. PVC plastics contain harmful chemicals linked to a variety of ailments, including bone and liver diseases and developmental issues in children and infants. Keep PVC items away from foods and drinks. Specialized programs recycle PVC into flooring, paneling and roadside gutters to name a few.
4. LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene)
More recycling programs are beginning to accept LDPE plastics. A very clean and safe plastic, LDPE is found in household items like plastic wrap, grocery bags, frozen food containers and squeezable bottles. Recycled LDPE is made into such items as garbage cans, paneling, furniture, flooring and bubble wrap.
5. PP (Polypropylene)
Another safe plastic, PP is quite sturdy and found in tupperware, syrup bottles, medicine botttles and yogurt containers. PP is recycled into heavy-duty items like pallets, ice scrapers, rakes and battery cables. Many recycling programs accept PP.
6. PS (Polystyrene)
An easily recognizable plastic, PS or Styrofoam is found in beverage cups, insulation, packing materials, egg cartons and disposable dinnerware. Styrofoam is notorious for leaching and poor recyclability, though some programs may accept it. PS is recycled into various items including insulation, school supplies and license plate framing.
7. Miscellaneous Plastics
SPI code 7 is a potpourri of plastics, one of which is polycarbonate. Sunglasses, computer casing, nylon, compact discs and baby bottles may contain #7. These types of plastics are hard to recycle and contain the toxic chemical BPA, a dangerous hormone disruptor that can cause health problems. Plastic #7 is primarily recycled into plastic lumber and specialized products.