What kinds of plastic can be recycled?

[00:01] Plastics have become an all-consuming part of our lives and our economy. It’s something I definitely think about. As the owner of Solpri, we make skincare, often for very active people. But plastic is something that we use all the time in our products. So, I have to think about what is usable, what is not usable, what can be recycled in dealing with these things on a day by day basis.

[00:25] Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of great plastic alternatives yet. Paper products are trying to catch up, but they’re very expensive, comparatively. So, when you want to offer cheaper products and not have a super high price point, it’s very tough to get paper packaging. But, we want to talk about plastic packaging and what is actually recyclable.

[00:48] So, starting in 1988, the Society of Plastics Industry, made this system where you probably have seen before, these nice little logos, they have a little recycling icon and a number in the middle of them on your plastic packaging. And this is a classification system to tell recyclers or you as a consumer, what kind of packaging is actually recyclable. And what kind of plastic is it made out of.

[01:16] Now, I won’t go into detail on every single number, but I’m going to give you general guidelines of what you can expect. Essentially, the lower the number near one, the better it is for recycling and ease of recycling. And then the higher the number, the less recyclable it’s going to be.

There are notable exceptions, but that is a good guideline. Ones and twos are the kinds of plastics which are used in many consumer products, much like the stuff that we make here at Solpri, and those are the ones that are going to be most often recycled in your curbside recycling program.

[01:55] Threes, although they should follow that nice guideline of the lower number are PVC. We use PVC in all kinds of things, plumbing, especially. And PVC is notoriously difficult to recycle. It cannot go in your curbside recycling.

It’s a very specialized item and recyclers have a very tough time getting recycled value back out of it. Fours and fives cannot go in your curbside, but should be able to be recycled. Fours, in particular, are LDPE or low-density polyethylene. This is what like your shopping bags at the grocery store are going to be made out of, or at Walmart or Target. They’re going to be made out of low-density polyethylene.

Now, you can’t put that in your curbside recycling, but most stores like Walmart, Target, your local grocery store all have some kind of collection method at the front of the store sometimes in the entryway depends on how your store is set up.

[02:53] Now, it’s obviously nice to bring reusable bags and not use the plastic at all. Remember, reduce, reuse, recycle, in that order. We want to reduce how many plastic bags we’re using, reuse them if we can and then recycle them last.

So, if you’re using a reusable bag, then you don’t have to worry so much about hey, I got this plastic bag and now I have to recycle it. But I’ll be the first to admit I have not been the absolute perfect person to bring recyclable bags or reusable bags with me every single time. I forget them sometimes.

[03:25] Or sometimes you have them and then a bagger doesn’t see them and they use the plastic bag and they’re gonna throw that bag away no matter what. So, I understand that yeah, it happens we do use plastic bags. We try to reduce them as much as we can, but it happens that they get used.

So, make sure you collect all those, make a bag of bags. I know you’ve got one. You’ve got one right next to your junk drawer. Bring your bag of bags back to the store and make sure those get recycled on your trips.

[03:55] Now, fives are a little bit harder kind of plastic, but they can be recycled. This is what your tubs, your rubber-made tubs are going to be made out of this kind of plastic most often. It isn’t going to be available in your curbside recycling most likely.

Obviously, check with your local municipality, what did they say you can pick up, they’ll tell you the numbers that they can pick up. But when it can be recycled, this is the thing that turns into fibers. And then some cool manufacturers are able to take those fibers and make them into new products.

[04:24] I know when I was working at New Balance, they had shoes that were made from this recycled plastic and that there are other manufacturers that make shirts out of it. There’s a whole industry trying to develop garments made out of this plastic and figuring out a way that we can reuse this plastic instead of just throwing it away and ending up in the ocean for animals to eat and it cause all kinds of problems.

[04:46] Now, six and seven, pretty much not recyclable. Six is things like styrofoam containers or packing peanuts. The bane of my existence as a shipper. I absolutely hate packing peanuts. I feel like there’s no use for them at all, ever. But sometimes they do get used. And there is a recyclable version.

So, if you’re getting packing peanuts from somebody, please see if they’ll try to use the recyclable version, the biodegradable version of packing peanuts. They’re a little bit more expensive, but only marginally. So, it’s something to consider as a shipper. If you ship things, please don’t use packing peanuts. If you do, please use a biodegradable version.

[05:30] Seven is kind of a catch-all where it’s just all kinds of junk that isn’t gonna be able to be used or recycled at all. There’s many different kinds of plastics that goes into sevens. So, if you see that on a product packaging, try to avoid it if you can.

[05:43] One super important thing to remember I learned while speaking with Madie Steer on the Smart Athlete Podcast. Now, if you don’t know anything about Madie or the Smart Athlete Podcast, I do the show where interview smart athletes. Madie, in particular, is a Ph.D. researcher looking at the effects of microplastics on our oceans.

Now, she told me in our conversation that there is one major thing that makes any of these plastics either normally recyclable, completely null in their value as a recyclable essentially goes away entirely. And that is colorant.

[06:20] Now, if you’ve been anywhere on this channel at all, I also talk about running. So, if you’re a runner, you’ve probably seen this blue tube at one point or another. Very popular company, lots and lots of these blue tubes exist on this planet. And they pretty much have no recycling value. As a marketer, I totally appreciate the blue tube, it’s very eye-catching, I love it.

But it can’t really be recycled, which is why part of the thing that we do here at Solpri is make sure that we use plastic made of white, or clear. And this is based on Madie’s suggestions. This is something we did because of her suggestion.

[06:59] But it does fall in line with her suggestion, use white and clear packaging. That is the kind of plastic that can be recycled. Whereas things with colorant cannot be recycled. So, if you can avoid products that look like this, or have any other kind of dye in them, that cannot really be recycled.

Recyclers don’t like them. They cannot be used, they have very little value. And you can do in favor of other things that have a similar price point and effectiveness, then go for the white or color-free packaging, the clear packaging. That’s the kind of plastic that’s going to have the most value.

[07:35] If you want to check out our products, obviously, you can go to Solpri.com/shop. Or if you wanna check out that conversation with Madie, I’m gonna link you right into the middle of our conversation where she also talks about gig rowing, which is her sport. And then we get into plastics and the plastics industry, right in the middle of our hour-long conversation.

So, I will link you to the middle part of our conversation when we start talking about plastics. So, thank you for recycling. Thank you for staying with me. Check out that video with Madie to learn more about what’s happening with microplastics in our oceans.

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