Recycling Plastics in BC
What’s actually up with breaking down plastics?
The ability to recycle plastics started in the early ’70s, but we didn’t see plastic recycling begin to take off until the ’80s. For those of us that still remember the 80’s it was a time of music hits that changed our lives and for generations to come, hair spray, and TV dinners – but it was not a time of recycling. While plastic recycling became possible, slowly growing throughout countries worldwide, it still took decades to become common practice.
As the years passed, advancements in plastics recycling have sprouted up, and it’s left so many of us wondering, “which plastics can we actually recycle?”
Much of the confusion has stemmed from the misinformation around the recycling codes. You could ask five different people what the codes on plastic materials mean, and you’d get five different answers. We know that each of these people is well-intentioned and just working off the information they heard on the news, the internet, their neighbour – but we think you deserve better information than that.
Here’s a breakdown of the 7 different codes you find on plastics and whether they can be recycled.
So, now we know what is made of which types of plastics, but now we need to explore what is safe to use and what can be recycled. Here’s the breakdown.
♻️ This symbol means it can be recycled
🌱 This symbol means it’s safe to use for food and drinks
❌ This symbol means it should be avoided
♻️ 🌱 #1 (PET) This plastic should be recycled but not reused. Reuse can cause leaching into foods or drinks. It’s best to use this type of plastic once and then recycle it.
♻️ 🌱 #2 HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene) – This is the most common type of recycled plastic.
❌ #3 PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) – Contains numerous toxins which it can leach throughout its entire life cycle. Almost all products using PVC require virgin material for their construction; less than 1% of PVC material is recycled. It’s best to avoid this plastic.
❌ #4 LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene) Products made using LDPE plastic are reusable but not always recyclable. This is not a common type of plastic that can be recycled, such as single-use grocery bags. It’s best to avoid using this type of plastic.
♻️ 🍃 #5 – PP (Polypropylene) – PP is considered safe for reuse. And can be recycled. Look for this symbol when choosing plastic.
❌ #6 – PS (Polystyrene) – This is mainly styrofoam and cannot be recycled. It’s best to avoid this type of plastic whenever possible, as it often just ends up in the landfill.
❌ #7 – Other (BPA, Polycarbonate and LEXAN) – This plastic has the potential for chemical leaching into food or drink products packaged in polycarbonate containers made using BPA. Also, the #7 category was designed as a catch-all for polycarbonate (PC) and “other” plastics, so reuse and recycling protocols are not standardized within this category. It’s best to avoid this type of plastic.
While the creation of plastic materials was a world-changing innovation, it has become a rocky relationship for many consumers. You don’t have to completely break up with plastics to be safe and protect the planet; you just need to have all the right information.
For more information about which materials can be recycled, follow this link.