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humans produced 644 bil pounds of plastic in 2015 alone. that’s more than 20x the amount of plastic produced in 1964!
someone recently asked me what the numbers meant on plastic, and I truly had no idea. turns out, all plastic has a number inside the recycling symbol ♻️this is called the resin identification code. the higher the number, the less likely it is to be downcycled. shockingly, most of the time plastic just ends up in a landfill.
so what do those numbers mean?
1️⃣ PETE/PET - used for cake trays, soft drinks, and pill bottles. the porous surface traps bacteria and shouldn't be used after they're empty. these items can be downcycled into carpet, furniture, and fleece.
2️⃣ HDPE - used for cleaning bottles, toiletries, and milk jugs. this is downcycled into fencing, floor tiles, and outdoor furniture.
3️⃣ PVC - used for cooking oil, clear food packaging, and mouthwash bottles. these items can be downcycled into roadway gutters and cables.
4️⃣ LDPE - used for bread bags, frozen food, produce bags, shopping bags, and furniture. they're often NOT accepted by recycling programs. when they are, they can be downcycled into floor tiles and trash cans.
5️⃣ PP - used for cheese containers, syrup bottles, drinking straws, and condiment bottles. currently, only about 1% of PP is recycled! it can be downcycled into kitchen utensils, cutting boards, and shovels.
6️⃣ PS (aka styrofoam) - used in take away cups, packaging, and egg cartons. it's a known carcinogen and has a high rate of leaching into food. these end up in landfill only.
7️⃣ misc items - just about anything else. these end up in the landfill.
each city is different — check your city’s curbside collection to see exactly what they pick up. you can safely assume recycling haulers will take plastics 1-2, but the rest of the numbers vary by city.
so what can we do? avoid plastic 🙅🏼♀️ brush up on your resin codes and adjust your recycling habits accordingly. if you have plastic in your life already, use and reuse it. just tossing it in order to lower your plastic usage won’t help the problem. it’s really about the purchases you make from here on out 💚
stat via Monterey Bay Aquarium
info via @going.zero.waste
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