Plastic is made from oil, the same kind that gasoline is made from.
Recycling a ton of plastic bottles saves about 3.8 barrels of oil. Flin Flon recycled 4 tons of plastic in 2013 which saved over 15 barrels of oil. Plastic recycling rates are very low with less than 9% recovered in the US in 2012.
Pure plastic is very unstable and wouldn’t hold anything. Different chemicals are added to make it useful based on what the plastic will be used for. So plastic is really a family of related materials.
When plastic items are made, it is important to get the right plastic with no other kind mixed in. When plastic recycling began, something was needed to make sure the recycled plastic resin was pure.
In 1988, SPI, the plastic Trade Association in the US developed the Resin Identification Code. A number inside the Mobius loop (recycling symbol) and the letters underneath identifies the kind of plastic the item is made of.
The numbers and names are:
- #1 PETE – Polyethylene Terephthalate
- #2 HDPE – High-density polyethylene
- #3 Vinyl - Poly Vinyl Chloride
- #4 LDPE – Low-density polyethylene
- #5 PP – polypropylene
- #6 PS – Polystyrene
- #7 – Other – mixed plastics
The majority of plastics recycled are #1 which include most drink bottles, and #2 found in milk jugs and shampoo bottles.
The Flin Flon Recycling Centre accepts all plastic containers with recycling symbols and numbers except # 6. When recycling symbol is too small to see the number, the letters help. #6 is the only plastic with an ‘S’ in the letters.
Plastic can be a big problem in the environment. Recycling keeps it useful.
Update: There is black and some other colours of #1 plastic (PETE) that you cannot see through. The orange container the new Tide pods come in are an example. This kind of #i plastic cannot be recycled. :(