THE PLASTIC RECYCLING CODING SYSTEM
|Plastic is an engineered material composed of carbon and hydrogen molecules, which bond to form polymers. Today, six types of plastics are most commonly used to produce plastic containers used in everyday life. The plastic industry’s voluntary Recycling Coding System makes it easier for consumers to sort and recycle their plastics.
The container coding system features an identification number in the centre of a triangular mobius loop and a letter code unique to the type of plastic resin. The code is commonly found on the bottom of the container. It provides a uniform coding system for North America.
Look for the coding system when making your purchases and whenever possible; purchase products in containers that are recyclable in your local program. In Durham Region, only plastic containers coded with a “1” within the Mobius are permitted in the Blue Box. This will be changing shortly.
Type of Resin and Product Examples
1 PETE (Polyethylene Terephthalate)
Pete, a commonly recycled household plastic material, represents approximately 30 percent of the plastic bottle market and is used to package a wide variety of food and beverage products such as: soft drink, water, juice and cooking oil bottles.
PETE is valued for its clarity, toughness and ability to resist permeation by carbon dioxide.
Products made from recycled PETE include: carpets, insulating material in garments and sleeping bags (fiberfill), strapping, bottles, containers, scouring pads, auto parts, paint brushes, geotextiles, such as landfill liners and industrial paints.
2 HDPE (High Density Polyethylene)
HDPE is characterized by its rigidity, low cost, ease of forming and resistance to breakage. It is used to bottle: Milk and juice, liquid detergent containers, Vinegar bottles and well-drained antifreeze containers and motor oil.
Recycled products made from HDPE include detergent and engine oil bottles, trash cans, recycling bins, soft drink bottle base cups, drainage pipes, animal pens, drums and pails, matting, milk bottle carriers, industrial pallets, bathroom stalls, plastic lumber, traffic barriers cones, flower pots, golf bag liners, kitchen drain boards and hair combs.
3 PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)
Because of its blending capability, polyvinyl chloride-commonly called either vinyl or PVC- can be used to manufacture commercial products including – walled pressure pipes, windows, doors, as well as crystal-clear food packaging, particularly bottles for cooking oils, water, shampoo, household chemicals, food wraps, and health and beauty aids. Its properties include good clarity and chemical resistance.
Recycled polyvinyl chloride can be used to make drainage pipes, fencing, handrails, house siding, tiles, sewer pipes, traffic cones, garden hoses and drains.
4 LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene)
LDPE is widely used in applications requiring clarity and processing ease. Its most common use is as film for sacks, shrink-wrap, stretch wrap and trash bags.
When recycled, LDPE can be used to make most of the products from virgin LDPE.
5 PP (Polypropylene)
PP or Polypropylene is resistant to chemicals, heat and fatigue. Consequently, it is widely used in many applications ranging from the manufacture of fibers and films to food packaging such as screw-on caps and lids, some yogurt and margarine tubs, juice bottles which can be filled hot and drinking straws.
Polypropylene has long been used as the primary material for the manufacture of automotive battery cases because it is lightweight, durable and cost-effective.
Products made from recycled PP, as well as potential markets for it, include auto-parts, new automotive battery cases, bird feeders, furniture, pails, water meter boxes, bag dispensers, golf equipment, carpets, refuse and recycling containers, grocery cart handles and industrial fibers.
6 PS (Polystyrene)
Polystyrene is a versatile resin with a range of physical properties that include thermoforming-an ability to form and foam – and relative ease of processing. While it is one of the least-used plastics for household packaging, it is used in some yogurt cups, egg cartons and meat trays. In its high-impact form, it is commonly used for thermo-formed signs and is foamed for fast-food packaging and institutional dining products such as hot and cold drinking cups, plates and boxes.
Products made from recycling polystyrene include insulation board, office and desk accessories, household products, license plate frames, packing peanuts, wastebaskets, videotapes cassettes and reusable cafeteria trays.
7 Other (Other)
The category referred to as other plastics consists of high performance plastics, frequently in the form of composites that are used in automotive and other durable goods applications. They are called composites because the plastic resin is combined with fiber reinforcements and/or fillers. These plastics represent a significant recycling challenge because products made from the recycled mixed material tend to have poor physical properties; they are often brittle because most polymers are incompatible and do not chemically adhere to each other. Generally, the greater the number of plastic components in a blend, the poorer are its properties.
Few products are currently being manufactured from recycled multi-material plastics, although limited ways do exist to improve the mechanical properties of products made from mixed plastics.
While recycling of composite plastics is currently extremely limited, when recycled, such plastics might be used to make landscaping lumber, farm animal’s pens, roadside posts, industrial pallets, marine pilings, benches and picnic tables. The lack of any significant recycling of this material reflects the current need to subsidize such activity to be cost-effective.