Most municipal programs accept plastics #1 and #2. But plastics 3 through 7? It gets much more tricky.

Thanks to the Society of the Plastics Industry, most plastic products are labeled with a single digit inside of a triangle that ranges from one to seven, which is also known as the plastic resin ID code. These numbers provide a guide so consumers know how to use and properly dispose or recycle plastic products. However, there are still some plastics that can be challenging to recycle, let alone identify.

Plastics Nos. 3, 4 and 5

Type 3 plastics include vinyl or polyvinyl chloride (PVC), type 4 are low-density polyethylene (LDPE) and type 5 are polypropylene (PP). PVC is used to manufacture food wraps, vegetable-oil bottles and blister packages, while LDPE is found in plastic bags, shrink wrap and garment bags. PP makes up items such as bottle tops, refrigerated containers and some food wraps, carpets and bags. PVC is often recycled and turned into drainage and irrigation pipes, and LDPE can be remade into grocery bags. Since plastics 3, 4 and 5 have a low rate of recyclability, there aren’t many municipal recycling centers that accept them. If your local recycling center doesn’t provide recycling for these plastics, the next best option is to reuse them as many times as you can before disposing of them. Rinse the products out with warm water and mild soap so you can put food and beverages into them. Use bottle tops and shrink wrap in art projects, and create storage bags from garment and plastic bags.

Plastic No. 7

This is the last category that includes “other” plastics. Products containing number 7 or numberless plastics are often made from a variety of resins. The “other” plastics include styrene acrylonitrile (SAN), acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), polycarbonate (PC) and nylon. SAN and ABS are food and drink safe, but PC is capable of producing harmful chemical compounds. Unfortunately, these mixtures make these products undesirable for recycling and forces number 7 and codeless items to go directly to the landfill. Even though recycling is out of the question, consumers can return these items to the manufacturers and reuse SAN and ABS plastics to reduce landfill waste. Along with reusing the food- and beverage-safe plastics as much as possible, you can start eliminating your need for plastics 3, 4, 5 and 7. So, be conscious of the plastic products you buy and let the plastic resin ID code guide your purchasing habits.