Some plastics can be recycled via curbside recycling, super market recycling machines, or drop-off bins. If you check the bottoms of plastic containers, you will notice a raised number from 1-7, found within a triangle, that indicates the type of plastic. There should also be a recycling symbol if the container is recyclable.

Almost all county’s have some form of plastic recycling. Check your local yellow pages to find a recycling center, then call and find out which types of plastics they recycle and where to drop them off. For statewide recycling information, call 1-800-CLEAN-UP.

Recycling tips:

1. Rinse and sort your plastics by number as mixing numbers may cause contamination during the recycling process.

2. Types 1 and 2, which consist of soda and water bottles, milk jugs, some plastic bags, detergent containers, cooking oil bottles, can be recycled curbside–if your city offers this service.

3. Take plastic grocery bags back to the store to be recycled.

4. Take lids and spray-pumps off of bottles, they are generally made with a different type of plastic, unless otherwise marked, that is not recyclable.

5. Find out if your city requires you to remove labels from plastic containers prior to recycling.

6. Types 3, 5, and 7 are generally not recyclable at this time due to the recycling industry still being in its early stages of development.

7. Type 6 is foam packaging called Expanded Polystyrene. Call The Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers at (410) 451-8340 to find out if this material can be recycled in your community. Other type 6 items, such as, plastic silverware, may need to be thrown out.

How is Plastic Recycled?

The recycling process begins with collected plastic bottles being clumped together into bales at the recycling center. Bales can weigh up to 1200 lbs. These bales get shipped to a reclaiming company where they are split into pieces and shredded into even smaller flakes by a machine called at bale breaker. The flakes are washed, dried, and then melted. The liquid is formed into beads that have the potential to become many other products, such as: carpet, jacket filling, and clothing. Plastic bottles do not get recycled into plastic bottles.

Most recycling collectors will not take plastic bags because they are light-weight and get caught in the machines. As previously mentioned, these can be recycled at most grocery stores. Many Americans reuse these bags as liners for small trashcans. According to  380 billion plastic bags are used in America each year; plastic bags made up 9% of litter found along U.S. coasts during a 5 year study; and plastic litter may take up to 1,000 years to decompose. With this knowledge, many people are saying “no” to plastic bags and opting to bring their own reusable bags to the store or requesting paper bags instead of plastic.

Because plastic is not biodegradable, it is very important to be mindful of the amount of plastic that we are using and throwing away. Plastic recycling is used in the creation of non-recyclable items, so drastically reducing the amount of plastic that your family uses is the most environmentally sound way of dealing with the plastic dilemma. plastic pelletizing machine