Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Non-Recyclable Plastic

If certain plastics aren’t recyclable, why do they have a triangle on the bottom with a number in it? A commonly asked question, for sure.

Let’s first start with the organization that brought us the solid triangle containing a number to begin with.

“ASTM International, founded as the American Society for Testing and Materials, is a nonprofit organization that develops and publishes approximately 12,000 technical standards, covering the procedures for testing and classification of materials of every sort.” This obviously includes plastics, or resin.

“The ASTM International Resin Identification Coding System, …(RIC), is a set of symbols appearing on plastic products that identify the plastic resin out of which the product is made. It was developed originally by the Society of the Plastics Industry (now the Plastics Industry Association) in 1988, but has been administered by ASTM International since 2008.”

The triangle containing a number on the bottom of plastics used to be a “chasing arrows” style of triangle. Now, it is more commonly a solid equilateral triangle. The number contained within this triangle is “solely dedicated to identifying resin content rather than product recyclability.”

“The use of the new symbol is aimed at increasing user understanding of the RIC system and its proper utilization and helps bring focus back to the system's core mission of resin identification and quality control prior to recycling.”

How does this help consumers? It helps us to understand the difference between a recyclable symbol “chasing arrows” triangle and one that solely indicates the type of plastic or resin from which a product was made. Its recyclability must then be questioned. This will usually require a question to your local recycling facility, since their processes are all different, along with the types of materials they are able to accept and process.

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