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Reggie, the Recycling Raccoon asks: ‘What’s up with the other plastics?’

When deciding if a plastic item can be recycled, look for the number 1 or 2.
When deciding if a plastic item can be recycled, look for the number 1 or 2 inside a triangle.
Courtesy photo. Reggie the Recycling Racoon.
Courtesy photo. Reggie the Recycling Racoon.

(Chelsea Update would like to thank Frank Hammer for the information and the photos in this column.)

If you have been reading this column each week from Western Washtenaw Recycling Authority, you know that Styrofoam and Polystyrene are trash, not recyclable materials.

And you may recall that for Polystyrene, which is really non-foamy Styrofoam, you check the bottom.  If there is no embossed triangle present or a triangle with the number 6, then it needs to go to the trash.

But what about the other plastics — can you recycle any of them?

How do you know what can be recycled, and what needs to be sent to the trash? The number is the key. Look on the bottom of the item, and if there is a 1 or a 2 inside a triangle, it is really useful for recycling.

PETE-logoOver 50,000 tons of number 1 plastics are recycled every year in this country, mostly water and drink bottles, as well as plastic containers of all sorts. The market for number 2, which usually is used for things like milk and juice bottles and various cleaning supplies, is an equally strong market.  Number 2 plastics can be semi-clear or brightly colored and both are recyclable.

Over the years, other plastics have come in and out of favor with the manufacturers who purchase recycled materials. But at this time, it’s No. 1 and No. 2 plastics that are sold my WWRA and the good news is more and more manufacturers are switching from the non-recyclable to the recyclable plastics. For example, here is a blister-pac product, which used to be made of “bad” Polystyrene, and is now made of number 1 plastic.

So, always check the number inside the triangle on any plastic product. Those numbers range from 1 through 8 but unless it has a 1 or 2, send it to the trash. Here’s a little jingle to help you remember:  “1 and 2 can live anew, but 3 through 8 just don’t rate.”

So please, take an extra 30 seconds and check the number in the triangle before placing any plastic in recycling bin. Be a conscientious consumer. And as a reminder, here’s what we told you to remember last week.

Reggie Raccoons Royal Recycling Review:
• Recycling puts materials back into use; trash is for things that cannot be used again.
• Flexible plastic of all kinds go in the trash, not in the recycling bins.
• Remember there are some alternative uses for plastic bags on their way to the trash.
• Styrofoam and Polystyrene are good for packaging, but have to go to the trash.
• Plastics 1 and 2 can live anew, but 3 to 8 just don’t rate.

Thee items are No. 2 plastic.
These items are No. 2 plastic.


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6 thoughts on “Reggie, the Recycling Raccoon asks: ‘What’s up with the other plastics?’”

  1. In addition to #1 and 2, WWRA used to take #3, 4, 5, and 7, at least according to an old flier that I have posted on my fridge for reference. But here you are telling us that we should be throwing away all of those other numbers. Perhaps you can send out an updated flier to people so we can make sure we are recycling the right things.

    It would also be helpful if you could update the WWRA website, since it states that you accept #1-7 as well as rigid plastics such as plastic plant pots.

  2. This is all good–but isn’t what we were told at the beginning of the mixed recycling process. I very clearly remember a time that the plastics in yogurt and similar containers were added to the WWRA list–because I had been taking them into AA where a number of stores are participate in programs recycling those plastics. I was very excited to see that the WWRA would expand. So I know many other plastics have been put in because we were told we could when those new recycling bins came out. If the market changed and the decision was made to do back to only 1 and 2, then it wasn’t communicated very well. I’ll go back to sending them elsewhere. But please stop saying they are not recyclable. They are–but the market is just not strong enough to make them viable for WWRA. It would be extremely helpful to indicate the other places we can recycle them, for those of us who care to do it.

  3. Just to make sure I wasn’t crazy I checked back through the archives of the Update and the WWRA website. Both say all No 1-7 plastics are accepted by WWRA. So if this is not true, a LOT of education and notification of ALL residents needs to happen. AND CHANGE the WEBSITE please.

    • From Frank Hammer:
      A comment was made that WWRA has been taking plastics 3, 4, 5 and 7 and our literature stills says we take them. That is true and the reason is quite simple. We seriously hope to find a market and continue to provide the service.
      If we start saying no in our signs and literature and then change that message in a couple months, we are just creating confusion.
      So, in the meantime we are asking the people who care to make them trash, but otherwise we are still taking them and trying to deal with those mixed plastics.

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