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Published on January 29th, 2012 | by Dylan Linet

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Recycling Plastics: What is the Resin Identification Coding System?

 

In order to know which plastics may be recycled, it is important to understand how to tell which type of plastic you have. Many types of plastic can not be mixed together, and some recycling centers and plants only accept certian types of plastic.

 

Why is There a Number on My Plastic?

 

Have you always wondered what the numbers found on your plastic containers mean? In 1988 the Society of the Plastics Industry created the resin identification coding system or “RIC”. The RIC is the funny number and bundle of letters you often see inside of a triangle somewhere on your plastic item. These numbers and letters refer to type of plastic used to create your product, and how/if it can be recycled.

The following is a list of the RIC numbers, their corresponding abbreviation, the plastic they represent, and what that plastic is commonly used for:

#1 PETE or PET: Polyethylene terephthalate
PETE is commonly used in Polyester fibers in clothing,Plastic strapping, and soft drink bottles

#2 HDPE: High-density polyethylene
HDPE is most recognized as the flexible plastic used in milk jugs and playground equipment. A versatile plastic it is also used in various agricultural products and food containers.

#3 PVC: Polyvinyl chloride
PVC is the ubiquitous piping material seen on downspouts and hobby projects alike. A common and tough plastic it is also seen in many other structural uses like fences and plastic chairs.

#4 LDPE: Low density polyethylene
LDPE is infamously known as the material of 6 pack rings, causing marine animals to become trapped and die. Other common uses are as laboratory equipment and medicine containers.

#5 PP: Polypropylene
PP is known by sports enthusiasts as a major constituent of high performance wicking clothing. A particuraly tough plastic it is also used in auto parts and industrial fibers.

#6 PS: Polystyrene
PS is another of the more infamous plastics. Responsible for Styrofoam, it is particularly difficult to recycle. It is also used to make more rigid products like cafeteria trays and video cassettes and cases.

#7 OTHER or O: Other plastics
Other is self describing as the moniker for other types of plastic. Acrylic, fiberglass, nylon, polycarbonate, others are all contained under this symbol. Nalgene bottles are made of polycarbonate and were at the source of the recent BPA scares.

 

The most commonly recycled plastics among these are numbers 1-3. Always check with your local recycling center or pick-up service to determine which RIC plastics they accept.

Interested in hearing more about a particular type of plastic, or do you have other questions? Please leave a comment below for more information.

Photos courtesy of Wikipedia.




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  • http://www.tipsforrecycling.com Tips For Recycling

    #3 plastics are actually not commonly recycled. They are actually the least commonly recycled. #1 & #2 are the most common, as stated in your post. Some programs state they take #1 through #7 plastics, but some will specifically say they don’t take #3s. Definitely check with your provider on this one before putting it in your recycle bin.

    • Dylan Linet

      Thanks for the extra info! I took the notion that #3s were commonly recycled from the recycling facility my family runs in New York: The Kent Recycling Center. We have the most luck finding buyers for a combined mix of 1-3 bales. It is very possible that this is just a local phenomenon :)

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