The crazy plastics number game

I can’t tell you how many times I am asked “Why can’t I recycle my butter tub? It has a number 2 on the bottom of it.” I finally got smart and wrote down my answer so as to share my answer with others quickly. For other recycling coordinators – how does this sound?

“Plastics have the different numbers on them because they have different densities and are made with different materials. These differences mean they must be separated out from each other to be made into new products. Recycling markets depend on the collection of the material and the remanufacturing of it into a new product. #1 and #2 plastic bottles have good recycling markets - there are products being made from the material such as polyester thread, new bottles and other hard plastics. However the quantity of other types of plastic, #3 - #7, do not have good recycling markets.

There is also a difference between the way a bottle is made and the way a yogurt tub is made. A bottle is "blown" plastic. It has a little curve and point on the bottom of the bottle. This differs from molded plastic, like a child’s toy or yogurt tub. For some chemical/physical reason that I cannot explain, these two types of plastics cannot yet be recycled together. So even if they are both #1, but made differently, they must be separated.”

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