Monday, March 10, 2008

Recycling plastic

Part 3 in a series on recycling. This originally appeared as part of a larger piece written by your truly that appeared on

Most plastics can be recycled by local facilities. How do you know what to throw in your blue bin? Look at the number. Every plastic item has a special resin code on it that signifies its chemical makeup. Some cities only accept plastics with specific numbers for recycling, usually one and two, because some types are less cost-effective to recycle than others. Check your city website to make sure. You can also find this information in your local phone book, or even on the lid of your city recyclables collection bin!

Take the lids off your plastic bottles before recycling. Lids are usually made of a different plastic than the bottles and must be sorted separately. (This goes for glass bottles and jars with metal lids, too.)

Some grocery stores have a collection area for plastic bags. If yours does, use it! If it doesn’t, request one. Some stores even offer a discount on your bill if you return used bags. Your best course of action? Skip both the paper and the plastic bag options and bring your own canvas bag. While this might not be feasible for a big weekly grocery shop, it is perfect for the times you need to pop into the store and just pick up a few things. Reuse your produce bags or skip them all together and place delicate fruits and veggies at the top of your cart.

What about plastics your city won’t accept? Donate as much as possible wherever possible. School art classrooms and local art programs might be able to use your cleaned items. Make sure you ask before leaving a pile of trash on their doorsteps! Better yet, don’t purchase goods with excess plastic packaging that can not be recycled. You really don’t need your avocadoes pre-sliced and plastic-wrapped. You can take the extra minute to slice it yourself. Know what numbers your city accepts and check packaging prior to purchase.

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