ALERT: How Well Do You Know Your Plastics? background img
July 8, 2016

ALERT: How Well Do You Know Your Plastics?

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Plastics have become an indispensable part of our daily lives but do we really know our plastics? Did you know that the plastic or soda bottles we use in our houses even after the beverage is finished should not be used beyond expiry?

It is important to know that the “chasing arrows” symbol seen at the bottom of plastic containers and bottles does not mean the product is recyclable. The number inside the triangle is what tells the real story.

Plastics are assigned numbers 1 to 7 on the basis of the material they are made of and this number determines their reusability. This number is called the Resin Identification Code.

Here is decoding all that you need to know about your everyday plastics:
#1 PET or PETE 
It is generally found on soda or disposable water bottles
So go pick such a bottle from your kitchen and look at the bottom, after squinting your eyes a bit you’ll find it. There will be a sign like the one mentioned before.

These bottles are usually intended for single use and hence the instruction “crush bottle after use” is seen across labels.

Repeated use increases the risk of leaching and bacterial growth. While many people do reuse them, they shouldn’t be reused for a long time and definitely not beyond the expiry date since the plastic starts to melt with time so the water you end up consuming is mixed with plastic.

Since plastic doesn’t respond well to heat, it is always advisable not to drink water kept in these bottles that gets heated when a bottle gets left back in your car.

#2 HDPE  
Generally found on detergent or toiletry bottles, milk jugs, oil bottles, toys, and some plastic bags. This plastic is safe for reuse & can also be recycled.

#3 PVC  
Generally found on food wrap or cooking oil bottles. PVC is dubbed as the “poison plastic” because it contains numerous toxins which it can leach throughout its entire life cycle.It is not a good idea to cook or heat food around this plastic even if it is said to be microwave safe.

#4 LDPE  
Generally found on bread bags, squeezable bottles. This plastic is not considered harmful to reuse but is hardly recyclable.

#5 PP 
Generally used in medicine or ketchup or syrup bottles. This is safe to reuse.

#6 Polystyrene or Styrofoam 
Generally found in disposable containers or plates & cups. The reuse of this plastic should be avoided since it contains potentially toxic chemicals.

#7 Other 

Other is used basically for every other type of plastic that is not included above such as polycarbonates, BPA etc. However, it is very important that containers numbered 7 should be reused with care since you really don’t know what it might be made of.

So always remember it is safe to reuse only 2, 4 and 5,
1 can be reused only till expiry and NEVER EVER REUSE 3 and 6 numbered containers.

Featured Image Source: sustainability.uic.edu

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