Recycling Plastic

As much as we want to and put our minds to it, plastic is everywhere. I found it everywhere in my house, even though we have been trying to be “plastic free” for I would say 5-6 months.

PET or PETE 1 (polyethylene terephthalate)

This is single use plastic; it is the most commonly used as it is inexpensive, lightweight and easy to recycle. Found mostly in bottles (water, soft drinks, beer, mouthwash). It is generally recyclable.

In Surrey, we can put these types of plastic bottles in the recycling bin. A perfect example is the HP sauce bottle, it is clearly marked on the bottom as PET 1.

HDPE 2 (high density polyethylene)

Commonly used in packaging. Found in milk jugs, juice bottles, bleach, detergent, other household cleaner bottles, shampoo bottles, shopping bags, butter and yogurt tubs, cereal box liners. It is generally recyclable.

V (vinyl) or PVC (polyvinyl chloride) 3

This is tough and it is used for piping, siding and similar applications. PVC is cheap, so can be found in plenty of products and packaging. Never burn PVC as it releases toxins given its high content of chlorine. Found in shampoo bottles, cooking oil bottles, wire jacketing, siding, windows, piping. Rarely recycled.

I turned the house inside out and couldn’t find anything with this mark “3”. I will have another look at windows tomorrow with light. Shampoo bottles have no sign at all (just the two arrows intertwining in a circle) or HDPE 2.

In Surrey, items in a reusable condition or working order can be donated to a local charity or some DIY construction waste could be taken to local community recycling centres (disposal charge may be applied). Shepperton, Leatherhead, Epson and Woking Community Recycling Centres take limited number of these.

LDPE 4 (low density polyethylene)

Flexible plastic. Squeezable bottles, bread bags, frozen food bags, dry cleaning bags, shopping and tote bags. Not often recycled. It is widely used for manufacturing various containers, dispensing bottles, wash bottles, tubing, plastic parts for computer components and various molded laboratory equipment. Its most common use is in plastic bags.

In Surrey, plastic bags have very little information and some can be taken to larger supermarket to be recycled with other plastic bags.

As for what to do with these drinking bottles – in Surrey, if someone has any idea, please illustrate me! My guess is that it is recyclable. The second item in the pictures, a delivery bag, can be recycled – but not in Surrey.

According to surreycc.gov.uk/waste-and-recycling/recycling-search-tool plastic bags (one category only) can be lined up in your food waste collection caddy. Large supermarkets have plastic bag recycling bins. Test your bag – if it is stretchable it is recyclable. If it snaps or springs when scrunched, it is not recyclable.

PP 5 (polypropylene)

It has a high melting point, so it is often used for containers that must take hot liquid. Found in some yogurt containers, syrup and medicine bottles, caps, straws. Not generally recycled, but gradually more accepted.

In Surrey, yogurt pots are clearly recyclable. In the search within the app or the website, the Sistema containers seem not be recylable. In connection to the children’s bowl – the category is quite bizarre, as it is not clear if you can recycle it or not – but, a “washing up bowl” made of plastic, would be accepted if you took it to a Community Recycling Centre (Shepperton, Leatherhead, Lyne (Chertsey), Epsom or Woking). I don’t have a washing up bowl, but if they are marked with PP 4, then I would give the same treatment to children’s dishes marked like this.

PS 6 (polystyrene)

Polystyrene can be made into rigid or foam products (styrofoam). Scary fact that maybe we all know: contains styrene monomer and styrene oxide, known or probable carcinogens. Difficult to recycle, most places still won’t accept it in foam forms. Found in: disposable plates and cups, meats trays, egg cartons, carry-out containers, aspirin bottles and CHILDREN’S CAR SEATS!

Polystyrene is not recyclable, so you can put this in your normal bin in Surrey or elsewhere. And for those with kids… regulations indicate that you should not buy second-hand car seats, but…

7 (Miscellaneous)

Plastic resins that don’t fit into the previous categories are lumped into number 7. Materials as polycarbonate, polylactic acid. Found in some water bottles, sunglasses, DVDs, iPods, computer cases, signs and displays, some food containers, nylon. Traditionally, not recycled, but gradually increasing.

In Surrey, this (I think!) is gradually being accepted as recyclable. But both the app and website for looking into specific things has a lot of work to be done (even though it is great as it is!). I couldn’t find whether to recycle the below bag or not. I have recycled it – so forgive me if I am making a completely uneducated bad choice!

So, another important thing – surreyp.org.uk has got a very interesting page with “What happens to your recycling?”, I will actually talk about this in a different blog.

I guess my conclusion is to call for all products that are made out of plastic to put the category perfectly clear. I found many many many products in my house that neither have the triangle or circle with the arrows, nor the waste bin symbol. I also call the Surrey recycling centres to maybe define whether a plastic product is recyclable or not, based on the numbers. More information, more education, less waste!

I found out that some companies are very clear, like Sistema, and if you go to their website they have a very good sustainability plan that targets the New Zealand company to be Zero net carbon by 2050. Unfortunately, I still wouldn’t know what to do with their water bottle above!

All producers, big or small should consider having an onsite recycling programme of their own old, used or broken products.

Consumers should have the mindset of first of all, reducing consumption. Then, reusing what we have and own. Lastly, recycling what we can.

My idea and target is, from now on, to avoid buying things that are not recyclable. If they are, buy less of it – because the process of recycling is per se a carbon emission process.

Full sources:

This blog contains a lot of information directly copied from the Good Housekeeping article. I just incorporated what Surrey Council is doing.

https://www.surreycc.gov.uk/waste-and-recycling/recycling-search-tool

https://sistemaplastics.com/about/sustainable-focus

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