Why Can't My Plastics Go In The Same Recycling Bin?

If you've been trying to be more green at home and recycle, you may be dismayed when a recycling company like Sunwest Metals Inc tells you that only certain plastics may be accepted. Take a look at why you can't just dump all of your plastics in one bin.

Understanding Resin Identification Codes

Have you ever looked on the bottom of a plastic bottle or container and seen the recycle-reduce-reuse symbol with a number? That symbol is known as a 'resin identification code,' and describes which kind of plastic the product is made out of. For example, symbols with the number one are made out of Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET), and symbols with the number two are made out of High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE). To shorten the names, these materials are known as Plastic #1 and Plastic #2 respectfully. There are seven resin identification codes in all.

So Why Can You Recycle A Bottle, But Not Its Cap?

While every municipality is different, some are more stringent and require you to separate plastics off of the same product, like a bottle and its cap. Because bottles are often made out of Plastic #2 and caps are made out Plastic #5, it may be harder for a processing facility to break these plastics down if they are mixed together since they will melt at different temperatures. However, because a commercial recycling company many have updated processing equipment, it may not require you separate your plastics at all.

If My Local Facility Doesn't Require Separating Plastics, Why Should I Care?

Even if you aren't required to separate certain plastics, there are still some benefits in doing so. Separating plastics will help you determine whether or not you are using safe plastics and whether or not you need to cut down on specific plastics. For instance, products made with Plastic #7 often contain Bisphenol A (BPA), which has been shown to have detrimental effects to people's health. The safest plastics to use and recycle are made from HDPE, or Plastic #2, and are often seen in products like detergent bottles and milk jugs.

Separating plastics also makes it easier for your recycling facility. Even with high-tech equipment, some products--like plastic bags--are often incredibly difficult to recycle since they can get caught in some sorting equipment. By separating them out and recycling them at the grocery store instead, you can make the whole process a lot smoother. 

Lastly, if separating plastics becomes too burdensome, that could be a sign that you need to further your green practices and cut down on wasteful products. Instead of using plastic bags, bring your own reusable cloth ones. Instead of using single-use plastic water bottles, invest in a thermos. Instead of storing leftovers in plastic containers or bags, try mason jars. These kinds of green practices will make recycling that much easier for you and your family.