The Plastics

By PSU EcoMerge Capstone - 6:37 PM


Plastics make up almost 13 percent of the municipal solid waste stream which is a dramatic increase from 1960 when plastics were less than 1 percent of the waste stream. These plastics make up such a large amount of the waste stream because the overall recycling rate for 2012 was only about 9 percent, which isn’t very much considering 32 million tons of plastic waste was generated in that same year. Of that 32 million tons the United States is responsible for almost 14 million tons of plastic containers and packaging, about 11 million tons of durable goods such as appliances, and almost 7 million tons of nondurable goods such as plates and cups. 

Because the United States is responsible for such a large amount of plastic waste it is important to know which plastics can be recycled and how to recycle them. Household plastic containers are usually marked with a number called the resin number that indicates the type of plastic which can be used to determine whether or not certain plastic types are collected for recycling in their area. Something to remember though before recycling the plastic product is that just because it has resin number in a triangle which looks very similar to the recycling symbol, doesn’t mean it can be collected for recycling.


Here is a chart to help identify which type of plastic matches the number:

SPI Resin Identification Code
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
Type of Resin Content
PET
HDPE
Vinyl
LDPE
PP
PS
OTHER

  • PET - Polyethylene Terephthalate
  • HDPE - High-density Polyethylene
  • LDPE - Low-density Polyethylene
  • Vinyl - Poly Vinyl Chloride
  • PP - Polypropylene
  • PS - Polystyrene
  • Other - Mixed Plastics


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