The Plastic Codes: How to Spot Them and What It Means to Your Health
by Maria Romero, September 14, 2018 12:06pm
Art by Dani Elavazo.
In a place where most millennials strive to win a zero waste revolution, one of the hardest pills to swallow is the fact that the Philippines is third of the largest contributors of plastics in the world’s oceans. Sure, Philippines is easy to love but this one’s definitely heartbreaking!
To help you be part of this zero waste movement, we listed the seven types of plastic. Not the mean-girls-type of plastics but the one under Resin Identification Coding System. Assigned by the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI), these codes will guide you through proper plastic usage and recycling as well as avoid the dangers it may cause to your health.
Wondering where and how to spot these codes? These can be found in the lids or bottom part of the plastic products. We may have seen these codes over and over again but did we do something about it?
- Recycle Code No. 1 - PETE/PET
Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE/PET) is the most commonly used plastic. This type of plastic is generally safe to use but it’s also important to keep it away from heat as it could cause carcinogens to infiltrate your liquids.
Common Forms: Bottles, medicine jars, combs, bags, carpets, and clothing fibers.
Recycling PETE: Recycling PETE lessens landfill waste and reduces greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere; it also helps reduce oil and gas dependence. We don’t advise reusing PETE-marked plastics because its porous content will allow bacteria and flavor formulation.
- Recycle Code No. 2 - HDPE
High-Density Polyethylene is the most commonly recycled plastic because its strong component will not break under exposure to extreme heat or cold. Yearly, a small portion of the world’s carbon footprint is lessened whenever an HDPE plastic is recycled.
Common Forms: Milk containers, grocery bags, soap and detergent bottles, and toys.
Recycling HDPE: Most recycling companies accept HDPE for reprocessing. However, you can also do some small steps at home to help to recycle such plastic. For instance, containers like milk bottles can be reused if washed thoroughly. Remember: Do not reuse HDPE plastics if didn’t originally contain food or drinks.
- Recycle Code No. 3 - PVC
Polyvinyl Chloride is known as the “poison plastics” because of its high toxin content that is hazardous to our health and the environment. PVC, therefore, should not come in direct contact with food and drinks.
Common Forms: Plumbing pipes, cling films, gutter, shoes, and window frames.
Recycling PVC: PVC is one of the least recycled plastics. As this type of plastic is commonly used to make food wraps, bottles for cooking oil, shower curtains, inflatable mattresses, and other common plumbing pipes, it’s important to check plastic labels to guarantee it’s PVC-free.
- Recycle Code No. 4 - LDPE
Low-Density Polyethylene is a relatively safe type of plastic that tends to be both durable and flexible.
Common Forms: Squeezable bottles for condiments, grocery bags, frozen-food bags, and flexible container lids.
Recycling LDPE: LDPE is seldomly recycled but other recycling companies are stepping up to reprocess it. To help mother earth, we just have to reuse them as much as possible rather than throwing it after single use.
- Recycle Code No. 5 - PP
Polypropylene is a microwave-safe type of plastic with heat-resistant components. Although it can withstand heat, it’s always advisable to heat food in glasses.
Common Forms: Tupperwares, kitchenwares, prescription bottles, and takeout containers.
Recycling PP: PP is occasionally recycled because there are only a few curbside recycling programs for it. And as always, check the plastic lids first to avoid purchasing seldomly-recycled plastics. If unavoidable, reuse them as much as possible.
- Recycle Code No. 6 - PS
Polystyrene or Styrofoam is lightweight and easy to use. However, such quality traits make PS less reusable.This, in addition to the fact that it is the most used type of plastic, also means that huge amounts of it are detrimental to both land and water creatures due to improper disposal.
Common Forms: Disposable coffee cups, food boxes, cutlery, and packing foams.
Recycling PS: PS is commonly recycled but is difficult and inefficient to do. It’s best to avoid these materials as much as possible.
- Recycle Code No. 7 - Miscellaneous Plastics
This code is used to define plastic types that are not under code one to six such as polycarbonate, polylactide, acrylic, acrylonitrile butadiene, styrene, fiberglass, and nylon. Many BPA (bisphenol-A)-containing plastics are in this category. Although BPA is health-safe at very low levels, using alternatives (e.g glass and stainless steel) not only lessen health-risks but are helpful to the environment as well.
We recommend checking resin codes first before purchasing food containers as there were manufacturers that uses BPA-induced substances in containers like water gallons and baby bottles.
Common Forms: Baby bottles, water bottles with multiple-gallon capacity, medical storage containers, eyeglasses, and exterior lighting fixtures.
Recycling Miscellaneous Plastics: These types of plastics are difficult to recycle because those are difficult to break down unless exposed in very high heat.
Here’s an infographic for your convenience:
Lasting solution to our plastic problems may take years to be complete but a small step today is a giant leap for the next generation.
Switching to reusable shopping bags, forgoing single-use straws, and knowing the basics of plastic codes could make great impacts. We hope you start to be cautious about it. And you know what’s even better? Sharing this new knowledge with your family and friends! Let’s all save what’s left of this planet and champion the zero waste revolution.
Be a hero for Mother Earth, and join Juan Earth this September 29, 2018, at Bonifacio High Street Activity Center, 9th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City. Juan Earth is a grassroots effort produced by Write On Track and its dedicated team of community volunteers that aims to educate and empower people to create a healthier and more sustainable world. Follow them on Facebook for more details.