What the Plastic?

Understanding Plastic Types and How to Recycle

In a world that relies on the ease and low-cost functionality of plastic, it can be hard to construct a plan where you can go ‘plastic-free’. Especially as a busy stylist that relies on certain items that may not have great alternatives (yet). The first step in your journey to reduce your reliance on plastic starts in understanding the different types of plastic – which to avoid and how to recycle them. In this blog post, we’ll break down the different types of plastic and explain what each is used for.

#1 Plastic – PET or polyethylene terephthalate

Bottles and other containers, usually clear in color. Reprocessed into new bottles or recycled as polyester fiber – for use in clothes, sleeping bags, and more.

#2 Plastic – HDPE or high-density polyethylene

Shampoo bottles and cleaning products etc. Can generally be recycled up to 10 times. Clear containers recycled back into the same new containers. Colored containers turned into many other items like pipes, lumber, toys, lawn, pens, floor tiles.

#3 Plastic – PVC, or polyvinyl chloride

One of the most dangerous and one of the least recyclable plastics. Found in window and door frames, piping, and clear food wrap. It becomes toxic when heated.

#4 Plastic – LDPE, or low-density polyethylene

Most commonly used for soft plastics, such as bread wrapping, squeezable bottles, shopping bags, trays, and containers. Can be recycled, but many recyclers do not accept it.

#5 Plastic – PP or polypropylene

Second-most widely produced plastic, used in yogurt containers, liner in cereal boxes and disposable plates, cups, cutlery. Even though some factories recycle #5 plastics, the total percentage of recycled plastic is not more than 3%.

#6 Plastic – polystyrene or Styrofoam

Widely applied to packaging and insulation, but also found in disposable drinking cups, CD/DVD cases, egg cartons, food containers to-go, and disposable cutlery and insulation, including building insulation. Fragile, so it breaks up easily and goes to the environment. Also contains styrene which can be leached while heated. Can be recycled into hard plastics but many facilities don’t accept it. Must be separated by color.

#7 Plastic

Everything else that does not fit into the above plastic recycling codes. Includes new plastics, bioplastic, and items composed of different types of plastics. Hard to recycle and most factories do not accept it. There are no standard protocols for using and reusing this plastic. This recycling logo also stands for polycarbonate (PC), which contains BPA, a chemical that can disrupt normal hormone functions.

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