I often wondered what those numbers at the bottom of plastic containers and bottles mean. Well, I just learned that the use of all plastics should be limited and that some of them are safer than others. But how do we know which bottles are safer and which ones are not.
It’s about time we know some facts about the plastics we use every day. We are all aware that every plastic bottle or container has a recycling symbol and this symbol is a number, ranging from 1 to 7, inside a triangle. Now, these numbers actually provide you a great deal of information. Here are some of the information you should know about the various recycling symbols and numbers.
Plastic #1 – PETE or PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate)
This plastic is used to make soda and water bottles, salad dressing containers, mouthwash bottles, beer bottles, and peanut butter containers. It is usually clear and considered safe by some. However, this plastic is known to allow bacteria to accumulate. This type is usually recycled into furniture, carpet, tote bags, paneling, polar fleece, and fiber.
Plastic #2 – HDPE (High Density Polyethylene)
This plastic is found mostly in milk jugs, juice bottles, shampoo bottles, household cleaner containers, motor oil containers, cereal box liners, detergent bottles, butter tubs, yogurt tubs, and toiletries bottles. It is usually opaque and is one of the three plastics considered to be safe. It has low risk of leaching. It is usually recycled into pens, picnic tables, recycling containers, lumber, benches, fencing, and detergent bottles.
Plastic #3 – V or PVC (Vinyl)
This is used in making food wrap, detergent bottles, shampoo bottles, cooking oil bottles, medical equipment, windows, and plumbing pipes. It is seldom accepted by curbside recycling programs. These plastics used to contain (and may still contain) phthalates which are actually linked to numerous health complications ranging from developmental to miscarriages. It also contains DEHA which has also been linked to liver problems and loss of bone mass. DEHA can be carcinogenic with long-term exposure to it. Hence, don’t cook with or burn this plastic. It is recycled into flooring, paneling, decks, speed bumps, and roadway gutters.
Plastic #4 – LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene)
This can be found mostly in shopping bags, clothing, carpet, squeezable bottles, frozen food, bread bags, and some food wraps. Plastics with these recycling symbols are considered to be safe. It is recycled into paneling, trash can liners and cans, compost bins, floor tiles, and shipping envelopes.
Plastic #5 – PP (Polypropylene)
This is also one of the safer plastics to look for and is usually found in ketchup bottles, syrup bottles, yogurt containers, and medicine bottles. It can be recycled into auto battery cases, pallets, bins, brooms, signal lights, bicycle racks, and ice scrapers.
Plastic #6 – PS (Polystyrene)
Polystyrene is Styrofoam and most recycling programs won’t accept this plastic as it is known to be difficult to recycle. It is bad for the environment, poses a health risk, and leaches potentially toxic chemicals especially when heated. It is found in egg cartons, meat trays, compact disc cases, and disposable cups and plates and is recycled into vents, egg cartons, foam packing, and insulations.
Plastic #7 – Others, Miscellaneous
All the plastic resins that don’t fit in the other categories are placed in the number 7 category. It is a combination of plastics that include polycarbonate, which contains the toxic BPA (bisphenol-A). These plastics might possibly contain hormone disruptors and should be avoided. It is linked to hyperactivity, infertility, reproductive problems, and other health issues. It is found in iPod cases, computer cases, sunglasses, nylon, 3- and 5-gallon water bottles, and bulletproof materials. It is recycled into plastic lumber and other custom-made products.
With this knowledge in hand, which recycling number is the “safest” and which numbers are we supposed to avoid? In a nutshell, we should avoid recycling plastics with symbols 3, 6, and 7. And even if number 1 is deemed safe, it’s likewise best to avoid this plastic. The plastics to look for in terms of animal and human consumption are those with symbols 2, 4, and 5 as they are deemed to be the safest. If we can’t avoid using plastic then we should, at the very least, limit our use of the product.