Plastic recycling

Plastic recycle symbolsRecyclable plastic products have a numeric code on them, called a Resin identification code (1 to 7), indicating what kind of plastic they are and how they can be recycled.

But in Melbourne (and, I suspect, much of the world) only types 1, 2 and 3 can be recycled. This leaves an awful lot of theoretically recyclable plastics going into landfill (or worse, into the recycle bins, where it needs to be removed by the waste management people, thus making recycling more expensive).

Evidently it’s not yet generally economically viable to recycle codes 4 to 7. Perhaps pressure should be placed on manufacturers to use 1, 2 and 3 where possible in their products.

While visiting Josh, Cathy and their new baby Owen yesterday, Josh said there are rumours afoot that some of Melbourne’s local councils are on the verge of making the investment in the technology to recycle more types of plastic.

Josh, a long-time battler of litter and waste, has started saving plastic waste for the day when it can be collected and recycled by his council. Given the huge amount of waste us westerners are burying in the ground, hopefully that day isn’t too far away.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

10 replies on “Plastic recycling”

Just move to Sydney… our councils handle all types of plastic. As examples, 4 is recycled into black garbage bags, 5 into heavier duty plastic (e.g. gardening/shampoo), 6 utility plastic (e.g. pegs and coat hangers), and 7 a variety such as moisturiser packaging and cabling.

And I agree – I hope Melbourne gets its act together soon ;-)

(By the way, we refer to 3 as PVC – poly vinyl chloride.)

penrith city council, west of sydney at the foot of the mountains has been doing 1 through 7 for some time now..

I hope they get their arses into gear soon too. I am not a full on greenie but I do try and recycle when and whereever I can. I didn’t even realise that there was a numbering system. I will be more alert now.

In Glenorchy, Tasmania we only recycle 1, 2 and 3 as well…

I doubt they have any current plans to add 4 to 7 any time soon either…

oh and we refer to 4 as LDPT

I recycle everything I can, but when all recycling goes into one bin (paper, cardboard, tin, aluminium, plastic, pvc) I have llittle faith that when the council starts recycling plastic of types 1 through 7 there is someone at the other end separating these. I hope they do, but I doubt it.

There are in fact people who sort through recyclable rubbish into different categories. A friend of mine does that casually for the local council. This is why it’s important for householders to be considerate in what they recycle and to remove lids, empty and sometimes rinse bottles out. He has often complained about people who put household garbage or half-full bottles into the recycling bin, because the smell is simply terrible on 37-degree days.

When visiting a large plastic packaging manafacturer, there were lots of large platic forming machines. These machines take in plastic beads and form them into yogurt and margarine type containers.

There was one machine that was being modified and tested with type 3 plastic instead of type 5. The challenge was type 5 has a much narrower temperature and pressure band for the machines to work within.

There are about 50 different groups of plastics, with hundreds of different varieties. All types of plastic are recyclable. To make sorting and thus recycling easier, the American Society of Plastics Industry developed a standard marking code to help consumers identify and sort the main types of plastic. These types and their most common uses are:

PET Polyethylene terephthalate – Fizzy drink bottles and oven-ready meal trays.

HDPE High-density polyethylene – Bottles for milk and washing-up liquids.

PVC Polyvinyl chloride – Food trays, cling film, bottles for squash, mineral water and shampoo.

LDPE Low density polyethylene – Carrier bags and bin liners.

PP Polypropylene – Margarine tubs, microwaveable meal trays.

PS Polystyrene – Yoghurt pots, foam meat or fish trays, hamburger boxes and egg cartons, vending cups, plastic cutlery, protective packaging for electronic goods and toys.

OTHER Any other plastics that do not fall into any of the above categories. – An example is melamine, which is often used in plastic plates and cups.

and to add – I think there isn’t enough education out there. I’m sure people would do the right thing if only they knew why and what impact it would have on the environment as a whole
How to educate our politicians, councils etc….well that is another matter all together – sadly

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