If you flip your plastic container upside down, there is a number with the typical recycling symbol. These numbers were established from 1988 from the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) that ranges from 1 to 7, and they represent the type of plastic resin ID. This information has been adopted globally in order for recyclers to properly separate each type.
PETE Polyethylene Terephthalate
HDPE High density Polyethylene
PVC Polyvinyl Chloride
LDPE Low density Polyethylene
PETE is typically bottles that contain water, soda, juice, sauces. This is the most commonly recycled item placed in our blue boxes that gets converted into bottles and polyester fibres on the recycling market.
2. HDPE are items that are mainly food packages, but are also found in household and personal care products such as laundry detergents and body wash. These recyclables are accepted into the recycling market.
3. PVC is similar to HDPE but made with less stiff material. It’s mostly used in shampoo bottles, piping, window cleaner spray bottles and many others. PVC is usually not collected for the recycling market as it contains harmful chemicals such as dioxins and phthalates are carcinogens when burned.
4. LDPE is essentially the single-use plastic bags from grocery stores, shopping stores, bread bags, and frozen food bags. The acceptance rate of these plastics is not that high, such as Ottawa as these bags usually get caught in the coveyor belts during the sorting stage at the materials recovery centre.
5. PP is the material for our home food storage containers, yogurt containers, prescription medicine containers, and has a high melting point which makes it ideal to store hot liquids such as take-out soup containers at grocery stores. Polypropylene has a very high demand in the recycling market and can be converted into battery cables, brooms and brushes. Although the city of Hamilton accepts PP for curbside recycling, for some cities that do not, WholeFoods has a recycling facility called Preserve 5, Gimme 5 where you can drop off PP materials where it won’t be shipped overseas that would potentially litter the oceans, instead it would be sold to a market called Preserve where our containers get recycled into toothbrushes, razors, essentially, a second life! More information can be found here https://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/blog/whole-story/small-steps-add-gimme-5-recycling
6. PS is yup, you guessed it, styrofoam. Polystyrene is versatile as it can take the shape of soft white take-out containers from restaurants, single-use cups and dishes, or be molded into stiffer materials such as yogurt containers. Since styrofoam is very light-weight, the quality prevents it from being recycled, rather than having a lack of recycling markets for it. Food and grease easily contaminates the styrofoam, with an even worse culprit being the monomer called styrene which leaches into the food which is likely a carcinogen.
7. Polycarbonate is the “other” category which is made up of ambiguous mixed materials. This material is typically found in sunglasses, iPods, and large water bottles in office buildings. Polycarbonate has been banned in certain municipalities as it potentially contains BPA or bisphenol-A which is a hormone disruptor. This type of plastic is the least desirable and unfortunately, ends up in landfills.