When buying plastic products a lot of people check if they have the recyclable sign. Actually, that recycle sign doesn’t always mean that the product it’s actually recyclable. What tells you more about a type of plastic is the number between the arrows, and there are 7 numbers. The number identifies what type of plastic it is. Below you can read about all 7 types of plastics and learn about them.
The first type of plastic, known as PET or PETE (Polyethylene Terephthalate) is mostly used for food and drink packaging as it strongly prevents oxygen from getting in and spoiling the product inside. It also helps to keep the carbon dioxide in the carbonated drinks from getting out.
The good news is that PET is most likely to be picked up by recycling programs, the bad news is that this type of plastic contains antimony trioxide, a matter that is considered as a carcinogen and capable of causing cancer in a living tissue. Also when exposed to heat (such as leaving the plastic water bottle in the car) it could increase the release of the hazardous matter.
The second one is HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene). HDPE has long virtually unbranched polymer chains which makes them really dense and thus, stronger and thicker from PET. HDPE is typically used to make laundry detergent jugs, milk bottles, and toys.
Not only recyclable, but HDPE also is relatively more stable than PET and as far as we know, there are no known health concerns associated with it and it has a pretty robust domestic recycling market. If we would have to choose which type of plastic is the best then definitely HDPE would be in the first place.
The third in the list is PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride). You probably heard about the PVC from the PVC pipes right?
PVC is used to make shower curtains, vinyl, cling wrap, inflatables like pool toys, flooring, car interiors, and a lot of vegan leathers.
In terms of toxicity, PVC is considered as the most hazardous plastic. The use of it may leach a variety of toxic chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates, lead, dioxins, mercury, and cadmium. Several of the chemicals mentioned may cause cancer; it could also cause allergic symptoms in children and disrupt the human’s hormonal system. PVC is not recyclable in most locations.
After PVC there is LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene). Polyethylenes are the most used family of plastics in the world. This type of plastic has the simplest plastic polymer chemical structure, making it very easy and very cheap to process.
This type of plastic is mostly used for bags, wraps, squeezable bottles, container lids, etc. While there aren’t any known health concerns, this plastic is very difficult to recycle. A few recycling facilities will accept them, but they need to be balled together inside of a larger plastic bag and should be the size of a basketball before being placed in the bin.
The fifth in the list is PP (Polypropylene).PP is most commonly used for tubs like yogurt, cheese, and butter, lunchboxes, tupperware, and prescription bottles. Stiffer and more resistant to heat, PP is also used for hot food containers.
After PP there is PS (Polystyrene). Polystyrene is the Styrofoam that we see so often. As you may know PS is used for food containers, egg cartons, disposable cups and bowls, packaging, and also bike helmet.
PP is really harmful for our health when exposed with hot and oily food as it could leach styrene that is considered as brain and nervous system toxicant. Styrofoam also breaks easily into small pieces and pollutes our waterways. PS has a low recycling rate.
When it comes to the last type of plastic on the list, it can be tricky because it can be a mixture of all sorts of plastics. Sometimes you’ll see this number with the initials like PC which stands for polycarbonate. Bioplastics are also a number seven and you might see the initials PLA.
In the end, no matter which letters you see a plastic with the number seven sign almost always means it’s going to the landfill.