Plastics have become an all-consuming parts of our lives. And our economy is something I 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, and what can be recycled in dealing with these things on a day by day basis.
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of great plastic alternatives yet.
Paper products are trying to catch up but they are very expensive comparatively. So when you want to offer cheaper products and not have a super high price point it is very tough to get paper packaging. But we wanna talk about plastic packaging and what is actually recyclable.
So starting in 1988 the Society of Plastics Industry made this system, where you probably have seen before is nice little logos and recycling icon and a number in its middle of them, on your plastic packaging and this is the 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.
Now I won’t go into detail on every single number but I’m gonna give you general guidelines on what you can expect.
Essentially, the lower the number, near one, the better 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.
1’s and 2’s are the kinds of plastics which we’re using many consumer products much like the stuff we make here in Solpri and those are the ones that are going to be most often recycled in your curbside recycling program.
3’s although they don’t, they should follow that nice guideline of the lower number, are PVC. We use PVC on kinds of things plumbing especially and PVC is notoriously difficult to recycle. You cannot go in your course of recycling is a very specialized item and recyclers have a very tough time getting recycling value back out of it.
4’s and 5’s cannot go in your curbside recycling but should be able to be recycled.
4’s, inparticular, are LDPE or low-density polyethylene. This is what your shopping bags at the grocery stores are gonna be made out of or Walmart or Target. They’re gonna 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.
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 are using. Reuse them again and then recycle them last. So if you’re using a recyclable 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 or sometimes you have them and then the bagger doesn’t see them use a plastic bag and they’re gonna throw that bag no matter what.
So I understand that yeah it happens we do use plastic bags we try to reduce 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 got one right next to your junk door. Put it on your bag or bags back to the store and make sure those get recycled on your trips.
Now, 5’s are a little bit harder kind of plastic but they can be recycled. This is what like your tubs your Rubbermaid tubs are gonna 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 do they say they can pick up.
They will 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 main features or I will take those fibers and make them into new products.
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.
They’re trying to figure a way that we can reuse this plastic instead of just throwing it away and ending up, you know, in the ocean for animals to eat and it caused all kinds of problems.
Now, 6 and 7 pretty much not recyclables. 6 is things like styrofoam containers or packing peanuts: the bane in my existence as a shipper. I absolutely hate packing peanuts. I feel 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 try to see if they will use the recyclable version; the biodegradable version of packing peanuts.
They are a little 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 the biodegradable version.
7 is kind of a catch-all. It’s just all kinds of junk that isn’t able to used or recycled at all.
There’s many different kinds of plastics that goes in the 7’s. So if you see that on a product packaging try to avoid it if you can.
One super important thing to remember I learned while speaking with Madie Steer on that Smart Athlete podcast. Now if you don’t know if you Madie here and Smart Athlete podcast I do the show where I interview some smart athletes.
Madie in particular is a PHD researcher working in the effects of microplastics are oceans. Now she told me in our conversation that there’s one major thing that makes any of these plastics are normally recyclable completely null in their value as a recyclable. Essentially their value goes in away entirely and that is colorant.
Now, if you’ve been on this channel at all you know I also talking 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 then 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 we do here in Solpri is make sure we use plastic made of white or clear this is based on Madie’s suggestions.
This isn’t something we did because of her suggestion 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 gonna have the most value.
If you want to check out our products obviously you can go to solpri.com/shop. Or if you were to check that conversation with Madie I’ll relink you right into the middle of our conversation 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’ll link you to the middle part of our conversation where 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 on microplastics in our oceans.