What do those plastic recycling numbers mean?
So, what does the picture, above, have to do with plastic recycling numbers? Originally, I was going to call this 'story' "Johnny On The Recycled Spot." Clever...but there's more to the story!
Without a doubt, you've seen the numbers, and recycling symbol, that are stamped on plastic containers...and basically, all things plastic.
Here's the deal:
Contrary to popular belief, the number does not indicate how hard the item is to recycle, or how often the plastic was recycled. It is an arbitrarily assigned number that identifies the specific plastic (polymer type).
The "SPI resin identification coding system" was developed by the Society Of Plastics Industry (SPI) in 1988. The codes are used worldwide.
The codes allow efficient separation of different polymer types for recycling. Separation must be efficient (and correct) because the different types of plastics must be recycled separately. Even one piece of the 'wrong' type of resin can ruin a recycling batch!
Here's what the numbers mean (in words we can all understand, I think):
#1: PET or PETE (polyethylene terephthalate): easily recycled plastic, not found to leach. Used in water, juice and soft drink bottles. Companies recycle this type of plastic, and make it into other products, like bags, packaging, and more.
#2: HDPE (high-density polyethylene): easily recycled, not found to leach. Used in milk jugs, plastic shopping bags, detergent and shampoo bottles.
#3: PVC or Vinyl (polyvinyl chloride): not recyclable plastics; soft PVC can leach toxic chemicals. Used in some cling wraps, children's toys, fashion accessories, rain gear, building materials, detergent and spray bottles.
#4: LDPE (low-density polyethylene): recyclable at recycling centers; not found to leach. Used in most plastic shopping bags, cling wraps, some baby bottles and reusable drink & food containers.
#5: PP (polypropylene): Recyclable in some curbside programs, but in most cases this can not be recycled in the United States. This material is not found to leach. Used in the Green Bag™ Reusable Shopping tote; baby bottles, most yogurt and deli takeout containers, Tupperware- and Rubbermaid-type reusable food and drink containers.This material is being recycled in Australia, where the bag was first used.
#6: PS (polystyrene): recyclable in some curbside programs, can leach styrene, a toxin. Used in foam drink cups, takeout food containers, egg containers, some plastic cutlery and more.
#7: Mixed: This code applies to all other plastics.
Now that you know what the numbers mean...look what I noticed, below...
Now, make the "leap..."
Yes...all the plastics you see in the above photos are #2.
So...I know that I'm "twisted," but...
How many empty plastic milk jugs, and the plastic shopping bags that they're placed in, does it take to make a "Johnny?"
Or, conversely, how many milk jugs can be made from a recycled "Johnny?"
And, would you want to drink from those "Johnny-recycled" plastic containers...no matter how much that plastic has been cleaned before being recycled/re-purposed?
And, know that the "Johnny" below, left is made from even more #2 plastic...!
I'm almost done.
Thus far, you've learned...and been grossed out!
Feeling a little...um... "green?"
Yeah, me too! I'd hate to think about what this thing looks like on the inside...and what it must SMELL like!
OK. Enough "grossness" thanks to "Johnny."
So, why the 1986 El DeBarge video "Who's Johnny?" from the movie "Short Circuit?"
To entertain you...and, because I can!