If it feels like the rules of recycling are constantly changing, it's because they are. What is allowed to go into the blue curbside recycle bin is often changing within a community and it also differs from one community to the next.
So what's an environmentally-friendly minded parent supposed to do? For specifics, visit www.iwanttoberecycled.org and enter your zip code for all the recycling resources local to you. I am lucky enough to have a big blue bin, compost bin, and glass recycling directly at my curbside and was still pleasantly surprised at all the other options (metal etc) within a short driving distance to me.
Our blue bin no longer can take plastic bags. Actually, I think it NEVER took plastic bags and our household is just getting the memo and getting on board. So we now take these back to our local grocer where they have recycle bins for bags.
Ever wondered what the different numbers mean within the recycling symbol? Me too. Here is what I found and thanks to Goodhousekeeping.com, things are explained below:
Plastic Recycling Symbol #1: PET or PETE
PET or PETE (polyethylene terephthalate) is the most common plastic for single-use bottled beverages, because it is inexpensive, lightweight, and easy to recycle. It poses low risk of leaching breakdown products.
Found in: soft drinks, water, ketchup, and beer bottles; mouthwash bottles; peanut butter containers; salad dressing and vegetable oil containers
Recycled into: polar fleece, fiber, tote bags, furniture, carpet, paneling, straps, bottles and food containers (as long as the plastic being recycled meets purity standards and doesn't have hazardous contaminants)
Plastic Recycling Symbol #2: HDPE
HDPE (high density polyethylene) is a versatile plastic with many uses, especially for packaging. It carries low risk of leaching and is readily recyclable into many goods.
Found in: milk jugs; juice bottles; bleach, detergent, and other household cleaner bottles; shampoo bottles; some trash and shopping bags; motor oil bottles; butter and yogurt tubs; cereal box liners
Recycled into: laundry detergent bottles, oil bottles, pens, recycling containers, floor tile, drainage pipe, lumber, benches, doghouses, picnic tables, fencing, shampoo bottles
Plastic Recycling Symbol #3: V or PVC
V (vinyl) or PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is tough and weathers well, so it is commonly used for piping, siding, and similar applications. PVC is cheap, so it's found in plenty of products and packaging. Because chlorine is part of PVC, its manufacture can result in the release of highly dangerous dioxins. Also never burn PVC, because it releases toxins.
Found in: shampoo bottles; cooking oil bottles; blister packaging; wire jacketing; siding; windows; piping
Recycled into: Decks, paneling, mudflaps, roadway gutters, flooring, cables, speed bumps, mats
4Plastic Recycling Symbol #4: LDPE
LDPE (low density polyethylene) is a flexible plastic with many applications. Historically it has not been accepted through most American curbside recycling programs, but more and more communities are starting to accept it.
Found in: Squeezable bottles; bread, frozen food, dry cleaning, and shopping bags; tote bags; furniture
Recycled into: trash can liners and cans, compost bins, shipping envelopes, paneling, lumber, landscaping ties, floor tile
Plastic Recycling Symbols #5: PP
PP (polypropylene) has a high melting point, and so is often chosen for containers that must accept hot liquid. It is gradually becoming more accepted by recyclers.
Found in: some yogurt containers; syrup and medicine bottles; caps; straws
Recycled into: signal lights, battery cables, brooms, brushes, auto battery cases, ice scrapers, landscape borders, bicycle racks, rakes, bins, pallets, trays.
6Plastic Recycling Symbol #6: PS
PS (polystyrene) can be made into rigid or foam products — in the latter case it is popularly known as the trademark Styrofoam. Styrene monomer can leach into foods and it's a possible human carcinogen, while styrene oxide is classified as a probable carcinogen. The material was long on environmentalists' hit lists for dispersing widely across the landscape, and for being notoriously difficult to recycle. Most places still don't accept it in foam forms because it's 98% air.
Found in: disposable plates and cups, meat trays, egg cartons, carry-out containers, aspirin bottles, compact disc cases
Recycled into: insulation, light switch plates, egg cartons, vents, rulers, foam packing, carry-out containers
Plastic Recycling Symbol #7: Miscellaneous
A wide variety of plastic resins that don't fit into the previous categories are lumped into number 7. Polycarbonate is number 7, and is the hard plastic that has parents worried these days, after studies have shown it can leach potential hormone disruptors. PLA (polylactic acid), which is made from plants and is carbon neutral, also falls into this category.
Found in: three- and five-gallon water bottles, 'bullet-proof' materials, sunglasses, DVDs, iPod and computer cases, signs and displays, certain food containers, nylon
Recycled into: plastic lumber, custom-made products
And don't forget the other two R's - reduce and reuse. Then you can skip the confusion and debate if it's recyclable!