Plastics: Of The Three Rs, Your Best Bet Is To REDUCE

If you live in an area that recycles plastic, you probably have no qualms about buying products that come in plastic containers. However, you should bear in mind that recycling programs sort plastic by type and then sell it to manufacturers by the bale. If the recycling program cannot find a buyer for a certain type of plastic, which is increasingly common given our economic climate, then it goes to landfill.  In addition, municipal recycling programs rarely recycle all seven types of plastic.

"Recyclable" means the plastic can be recycled. Whether it is recycled or not depends on the recycling program in your municipality or county.

There are the seven types of plastics, which are each assigned a number, or a resin identification code:

#1 PET (Polyethylene terephthalate)
#2 HDPE (High-density polyethylene)
#3 PVC (Polyvinyl chloride)
#4 LDPE (Low-density polyethylene)
#5 PP (Polypropelene)
#6 PS (Polystyrene)
#7 Other

In the picture below, you can see the recycling symbol with a 6 in the centre and the letters "PS" underneath. You guessed it. This is polystyrene.

According to RECYC-Québec, the provincial organization responsible for recycling, plastics 1, 2 and 5 can be recycled throughout the province. This is not surprising, as plastics 1 and 2 are the most common.

What you may not know is that, although one type of plastic may be recycled in one municipality, there is no guarantee that this type of plastic is recycled in your own (the number of buyers for recycled plastic is often limited). For instance, in my municipality, the only type of plastic that is NOT recycled is number 6, polystyrene. Yet, in several municipalities in and around Toronto, they recycle all seven types of plastic. Your best bet is to contact your municipality or visit your municipality's web site to see which types of plastic are recycled in your area, and then make your purchases accordingly.

In addition, if you find a container without a number, remember it will not be recycled. The workers at the sorting station have to be able to find a number to sort it.

The best strategy with respect to plastic is REDUCE, REDUCE, REDUCE.


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