We’re all familiar with the recycling symbol that has three arrows moving in a triangle that represent different parts of the recycling process: collection, re-manufacture and resale. Recycling has been around for many years and it seems like a pretty self-explanatory topic but there is much more to recycling than just turning in cans and bottles for nickels and dimes – it is essential in reducing the amount of trash we send to landfills and incinerators. Through recycling, we can help preserve vital natural resources from depletion, create a profitable market for recycled goods and ultimately reduce our impact on the environment.
What is recyclable depends on where you live and what your recyclers are able to recycle. It is best to call your recycler or visit their website for what they accept. And don’t just limit yourself to your municipal recycler that makes curbside pick ups – many private recyclers and businesses such as automotive and hardware stores may accept items for recycling. There are also resources such as www.earth911.com that can help you locate recyclers in your area. It may take some research and few phone calls but remember that you’re helping to make a difference in the environment of the community in which you live!
Many products can be recycled, including all types of electronics, hazardous materials, papers, household and automotive goods, metals, glass, construction materials and of course, plastics. Because plastics are used in many products we use, it is important to know that there are many different types of plastics, usually differentiated by a number on the bottom of the plastic container. Some plastics can be recycled and some cannot, depending on the recycling facility.
Here is a breakdown:
#1 (PET or PETE – polyethylene terephthalate): most common for single-use bottled beverages like water and soda bottles. It is highly recyclable but recycling rates remain low (around 20%).
#2 (HDPE – high density polyethylene): versatile and used in bottles for cleaning products, shampoo, milk, juice, some trash and shopping bags. Readily recyclable into many goods.
#3 (V or PVC – vinyl or polyvinyl chloride): found in some cleaning bottles, clear food packaging, medical equipment, siding, windows, piping, wire jacketing. As PVC contains chorine, it can release highly dangerous dioxins during manufacturing. It is rarely recycled but some recycling manufacturers may accept them.
#4 (LDPE – low density polyethylene): flexible plastic with many applications such as in squeezable bottles, packaging for bread and frozen food, dry cleaning and shopping bags. Also used in clothing, furniture and carpet. More recycling facilities are starting to accept #4 plastics for recycling.
#5 (PP – polypropylene): it has a high melting point so it is often used for containers that must accept hot liquid. It is also used for yogurt containers, syrup and ketchup bottles, straws, caps, medicine bottles. It is gradually becoming more accepted by recyclers.
#6 (PS – polystyrene): can be made into rigid or foam products such as CD cases and disposable foam products, otherwise known as Styrofoam. Although many recyclers still don’t accept it, some are starting to accept them.
#7 (other): all other plastics are lumped into #7, including polyactide which is made from plants and may be biodegradable, as well as polycarbonate, a hard plastic. Some #7 plastic products include 3 and 5 gallon water bottles, sunglasses, DVDs, ipod and computer cases, signs and displays.
While the EPA estimates that 75% of solid waste is recyclable, only about 30% is actually recycled. We all need to take responsibility for our waste and increase our efforts to recycle as well as encourage others to recycle – after all, we all breathe the same air and live on the same planet. At Chef JJ’s, we find that a bulk of the items we recycle are wine bottles, some plastics and cardboard boxes. Although being able to recycle items that we use are great, we believe that it is best to first reduce the amount of waste before purchasing items that are made with recyclable or recycled materials. That’s why we are making more of an effort to purchase items with minimal packaging as well as more eco-friendly products when possible.