My plastics series, compiled

If you’ve been following my Instagram page, you’ve seen my posts about types of plastics. I’ve been slowly making my way through each type. Now that I’ve finished, I’ve posted all of the information here for your reference. I hope you enjoy it!

IMG-3584

What is it?

PETE/PET
aka Polyethylene terephthalate, but better known as #1 plastic

Where can you find it?

Typically, it’s a firm, clear plastic used for single-use items.

Examples include: bottles for water, pop, and juice; mouthwash; nut butters; and salad dressings

What about recyclability?

Compared to many others, #1 plastic is easy to recycle.

Products made from recycled #1 plastics include: fleece and polyester fabrics, carpet

What about health?

#1 plastic can leach a suspected carcinogen called antimony, especially at high temperatures.

For this reason, adhere to the expiry dates on plastic water bottles and never store them in hot cars!

Many sources warn against reusing #1 plastics for this reason, as well.

IMG-3704

What is it?

HDPE
aka High-density polyethylene, but better known as #2 plastic

Where can you find it?

Typically, it’s a white, clear, or colourful hard plastic used for containers; although sometimes it’s used for bags.

Examples include: milk jugs, detergent and shampoo bottles, yogurt and margarine tubs, cereal box liners 

What about recyclability?

Many #2 plastic products are recyclable (such as containers) but others are less likely to be accepted in curbside recycling programs (such as cereal box liners).

Products made from recycled #2 plastics include: plastic lumber, containers, buckets, flower pots

What about health?

#2 plastic is considered relatively safe; however, it’s argued that no truly safe plastic exists. Recent research shows that most plastics leach harmful chemicals.

IMG-3706

What is it?

V
aka POLYVINYL CHLORIDE, but better known as #3 plastic

Where can you find it?

This is a tricky category to identify! It often includes soft plastics, (but not all soft plastics) and can also include certain hard plastics.

Examples include: plastic wrap, shower curtains, toys, pipes, takeout containers, flooring, rain gear, and school supplies

What about recyclability?

Although #3 plastic is technically recyclable, it’s typically not accepted for recycling, except for at specialty locations.

Products made from recycled #3 plastics include: paneling and flooring

What about health?

This notorious type of plastic can contain—and leach—various hazardous chemicals, including chlorine and phthalates.

Avoid if possible, and never microwave plastic wrap.

Wait, what are phthalates?

This is a group of chemicals used to make plastics soft. They can be found in plastic wrap and soft toys such as rubber ducks, but they’re often also added to fragrance, nail polish, and cosmetics. Phthalates are known to be reproductive toxins.

IMG-3707

What is it?

LDPE
aka LOW-DENSITY POLYETHYLENE, but better known as #4 plastic

Where can you find it?

Typically, this is either a soft or hard plastic that often includes bags.

Examples include: plastic grocery bags and produce bags, trash bags, squeezable bottles

What about recyclability?

#4 plastic is recyclable, but not accepted everywhere, and plastic bags can get caught in sorting equipment.

For cheap plastics like plastic bags especially, there’s too much product with too little demand, and it’s one reason why our recycling industry is in crisis and recycling isn’t the answer. The companies we’re sending our recycling to often don’t want our cheap products such as plastic bags.

Products made from recycled #4 plastics include: paneling, bags, plastic lumber

What about health?

#4 plastic is considered relatively safe; however, it’s argued that no truly safe plastic exists. Recent research shows that most plastics leach harmful chemicals.

IMG-3708

What is it?

PP
aka POLYPROPYLENE, but better known as #5 plastic

Where can you find it?

Typically, it’s a hard plastic used for a variety of things.

Examples include: bottle caps, medicine bottles, food storage containers, yogurt and margarine tubs

What about recyclability?

#5 plastic is recyclable, but is considered more challenging to recycle than some other types.

Products made from recycled #5 plastics include: plastic lumber

What about health?

#5 plastic is considered one of the safest types of plastic.

However, it’s argued that no truly safe plastic exists. Recent research shows that most plastics leach harmful chemicals.

IMG-3709

What is it?

PS
aka POLYSTYRENE, but better known as #6 plastic

Where can you find it?

Styrofoam, foam, and some other deceptive products

Examples include: packing material, takeout containers, some disposable cups, foam egg cartons, meat trays, CD cases, some yogurt containers

What about recyclability?

Technically recyclable, but very rarely accepted in curbside recycling programs. It’s difficult to recycle effectively.

Products made from recycled #6 plastics include: insulation, packing material

What about health?

#6 plastic can leach styrene, which is toxic. It also absorbs contaminants in the environment, making it more toxic over time.

Avoid if possible, and never heat or microwave #6 plastic.

IMG-3710

What is it?

OTHER
better known as #7 plastic
the dreaded and confusing “other” category

Where can you find it?

Anywhere and everywhere! It’s made up of other types of plastics, or a combination of types of plastics.

Examples include: baby bottles and sippy cups, CDs and DVDs, eyeglass lenses, food packaging, canned goods,

What about recyclability?

Almost entirely unrecyclable.

What about health?

It’s hard to say, as this category is so broad and vague.

However, we do know about one very controversial type of #7 plastic: polycarbonate, which contains BPA.

Wait, what is BPA?

Bisphenol-A was all over the news about a decade ago for its hormone-disrupting and potentially cancer-causing effects. Studies at the time showed that 95% of Canadians had measurable amounts of BPA in their urine. It has since been removed from baby bottles and many reusable plastic water bottles, but can still be found in thermal paper (receipts), many canned goods, jar lids, eyeglasses, and CDs/DVDs. But wait! New research is showing that its substitutes (including BPS) are equally toxic.

Selected References

(Please feel free to ask me for others!)

American Chemistry Council. (2019). What Plastics Can Become. https://www.recycleandrecoverplastics.org/consumers/kids-recycling/plastics-can-become/

Canadian Plastics Industry Association. (2019). Recycling Plastics Facts. https://www.plastics.ca/PlasticTopics/RecyclingPlastics/RecyclingPlasticFacts

Chevalier, Jennifer. (2018). In your blue box, not all plastics are created equal: Recycling experts say it may be time to rethink what’s accepted in the blue box. CBC News. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/plastic-valuable-ottawa-recycling-1.4818980 

Recycle BC. What can I recycle? (2019). Plastic containers. https://recyclebc.ca/what-can-i-recycle/#1489681786329-6423553a-d85b 

Yang, C. Z., Yaniger, S. I., Jordan, V. C., Klein, D. J., & Bittner, G. D. (2011). Most plastic products release estrogenic chemicals: a potential health problem that can be solved. Environmental health perspectives, 119(7), 989–996. doi:10.1289/ehp.1003220 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3222987/

LeahStellaPayne-Sig-BLK

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