What Do The Plastic Recycling Symbols Actually Mean?
Sioux Lookout Municipal Environment Committee - Special to The Bulletin
It seems like everything in our world today is made of plastic, and it’s littering our streets, clogging our waterways, and choking marine life. A 2016 report from the World Economic Forum found that 32% of plastic packaging ends up in the oceans every year. Although many plastics can be recycled, the National Geographic estimates 91% of plastic has never been recycled. The “chasing arrows” symbol seen on plastic containers and products does not mean the product is recyclable. The little number inside the triangle helps to identify the type of plastic used for the product. Sioux Lookout’s recycling program is different from other municipalities – some items that are collected as recyclable in Toronto, may not be the case in our town. To know what is acceptable in our recycling program, check out the ‘Blue Box Guidelines for Sioux Lookout and Hudson’ on the town’s website at www.siouxlookout.ca/en/living-here/garbage-and-recycling.asp.
Here’s what each plastic recycling symbol means and how to recycle it:
Plastic Recycling Symbol #1
PET or PETE (polyethylene terephthalate): Most common plastic for single-use bottled beverages because it’s inexpensive, lightweight and easy to recycle. Although it is in high-demand by manufacturers, it’s recycling rates remain relatively low
Found in: soft drinks, water, ketchup, mouthwash and salad dressing bottles
How to recycle: Can be recycled in Sioux Lookout’s curbside recycling program so long as it has been emptied, washed out and lids/caps removed.
Recycled into: tote bags, furniture, carpet, fibre, paneling straps
Plastic Recycling Symbol #2
HDPE (high density polyethylene): Versatile plastic with many uses and is readily recyclable into many types of goods
Found in: Milk jugs, juice bottles, detergent and other household cleaner bottles, shampoo bottles
How to recycle it: Can be recycled in Sioux Lookout’s curbside recycling programs so long as it has been emptied, washed out and lids/caps removed. Cereal box liners are not accepted or containers once containing a hazardous substance such as motor oil bottles. HDPE# 2-7 lids that are washed off are acceptable. Flimsy plastics (like grocery bags) can't be recycled in our recycling program
Recycled into: Detergent and shampoo bottles, recycling containers, floor tiles, picnic tables, and fencing.
Plastic Recycling Symbol #3
PVC (polyvinyl chloride): a tough plastic that weathers well. Since chlorine is part of PVC, it can result in the release of highly dangerous dioxins during manufacturing. Never burn PVC (or any plastic for that matter) because it releases toxins
Found in: Shampoo and cooking oil bottles, siding, windows, piping
How to recycle it: Only limited recycling in Sioux Lookout’s curbside recycling program because it contains numerous toxins which can leach into the ground
Plastic Recycling Symbol #4
LDPE (low-density polyethylene): a flexible plastic with many applications.
Found in: Squeezable bottles, shopping bags, tote bags, furniture
How to recycle it: Only semi-solid forms of LDPE are acceptable in Sioux Lookout’s curbside recycling program so long as it has been emptied, washed out and lids/caps removed. Just like HDPE, plastic bags, and bubble wrap are not accepted
Recycled into: Trash can liners and cans, compost bins, shipping envelopes, paneling, lumber, floor tiles
Plastic Recycling Symbols #5
PP (polypropylene): Normally used for containers that will hold hot liquid.
Found in: Some yogurt containers, syrup and medicine bottles, straws
How to recycle it: Most can be recycled in Sioux Lookout’s curbside recycling program, but must be empty, washed out and lids/caps removed. A common exception is coroplast signs.
Recycled into: Signal lights, battery cables, brooms, brushes, ice scrapers, rakes
Plastic Recycling Symbol #6
PS (polystyrene): can be made into rigid or foam products — in the latter case it is popularly known as Styrofoam. This type of plastic is difficult to recycle.
Found in: Disposable plates and cups, foam meat trays, egg cartons, carry-out containers
How to recycle it: Vast majority is not acceptable in Sioux Lookout’s curbside recycling program.
Recycled into: Insulation, light switch plates
Plastic Recycling Symbol #7
Miscellaneous: A wide variety of plastic resins that don't fit into the previous categories are lumped into this one. Polycarbonate (a hard plastic) and PLA (polylactic acid), which is made from plants and is carbon neutral, also falls into this category.
Found in: Some water bottles, bullet-proof materials, sunglasses, DVDs, iPod and computer cases, signs and displays, nylon
How to recycle it: Can be recycled in Sioux Lookout’s curbside recycling programs so long as it has been emptied, washed out and lids/caps removed
Recycled into: Plastic lumber and custom-made products
Always remember, that black plastics, regardless of the number (except #2) are not acceptable in our recycling program. Any container found in your blue box/bag not completely washed out is thrown out as garbage and ends up in our landfill.