Thursday, July 5, 2012

Recycling by the numbers?

The other day, a sweet lady approached me and asked, “Can I recycle #5 plastic containers?” Honestly, I don't know a #5 from a #1. Anymore, recycling isn't about the numbers. It's about the quality of the plastic.
I remember the days when we determined what went into our recycling bin based on the number on the container. Boy, that got confusing.  The plastics industry has changed a lot over the years. More and more types of plastics are manufactured with different additives. A lot of recyclability today has to do with how the plastic was formed. Containers that are formed through a blow process, much like blown glass, tend to be sturdier in nature and more desirable, such as tubs, bottles and jars. Plastics that are formed through injection molding, such as the clear plastic containers that strawberries come in, have significantly lower value and strength. The injection process compromises the integrity of the plastic, which makes it a less valuable product in terms of the recyclables market.
If you are really passionate about recycling items that cannot be taken curbside, there are a few Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) in the Portland area that will accept presorted materials such as clear plastic “clamshell” food containers and even Styrofoam. Specifically, call Far West Fibers. You can find them on the web at www.
If you are interested in finding out what all of those numbers mean on your plastic containers, check out this interesting resource from National Geographic.

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