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Get to Know Your Plastic Resin Number

3 min read

It's important to understand how to responsibly recycle plastics in your home as you embark on making the swap to sustainable alternatives. We have summarized the most common numbers displayed on products, and if they can be recycled or reused, what to watch out for with bio-based plastics on the rise and certification logos you want to see on any packaging in the event you do need to purchase a packaged product. 

Plastic by the Number: The purpose of each number is to identify the type of plastic used for the product, and not all plastics are recyclable or even reusable. Below is a snapshot of the most common plastic resins. While industry standards suggest that some plastic products can be reused safely - I would personally avoid reusable any that are used for food, laundry or personal care. It's best to recycle, if possible, and replace with a non-plastic alternative.

Polyethylene Terephthalate High-Density 
Polyethylene
Polyvinyl Chloride
Low-Density 
Polyethylene
Polypropylene Polystyrene BPA, Polycarbonate and LEXAN
Recycle but not reusable Reusable and recyclable Not recyclable and should not be reused for applications with food or for children's use. Reusable but not always recyclable. Check with your collection service. Considered safe for reuse. Check with your curbside program for acceptance but note that only 3% of PP products get recycled. Not reusable or recyclable. Avoid #6 use whenever possible - this material accounts for 35% of US landfill material.  Not reusable. Compostable (at industrial facilities) only if labeled with PLA or certified standards logos, otherwise they are not recyclable. Best to avoid #7 altogether.   
Found in water and pop bottles and some packaging. Anything intended for single-use. Found in milk jugs, detergent and oil bottles, toys, and some plastic bags.  Used to make clear plastic food wrapping, cooking oil bottles, teething rings, children's and pets' toys, and blister packaging.  Found in shrink wraps, dry cleaner garment bags,  Found and used for cereal inserts, disposable diapers, pails, packing tape, and rope.  Used for styrofoam drinking cups, take-out clamshell food containers egg cartons, picnic cutlery, foam packaging, and  "peanut" packing chips. Used to make baby bottles, sippy cups, water cooler bottles and car parts. 

 

#7 OTHER: IMPORTANT TO NOTE

Since this category is a catch-all for all other plastics, new generations of plastics are being created using bio-plastic alternatives and labelled #7.

Bio-plastics (bio-polymer) are typically made from renewable biological raw materials and can contain additives to make them biodegradable. However, not all bio-based plastics are biodegradable or compostable or made from natural renewable sources. Understanding it's beginning of life and end of life of these products are confusing and the producers meant it to be that way. It's next level greenwashing. Look for standards and certifications when you see the #7 other label. If the label doesn't have a certified compostable or biodegradable standards logo then it's headed for the landfill. 

Logos you want to see on the product packaging. 

Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI)

Denotes certification by the Biodegradable Products Institute to be compostable in commercial or municipal composting facilities in compliance with the U.S. standard ASTM D6400.

OK Compost Home

Denotes certification by Vinçotte as compostable in backyard or home composting facilities. This is one of the world’s only home composting certifications and it is based on the European standard EN 13432.

 

OK Compost

Denotes certification by Vinçotte to be compostable in commercial or municipal composting facilities in compliance with the European standard EN 13432.

 

Seedling

Denotes certification to be compostable in commercial or municipal composting facilities in compliance with the European standard EN 13432.

 

USDA

Certified biobased according to USDA standards. These products come from renewable resources and provide an alternative to petroleum-based products.

 

 


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