Plastic Resin Recycling Codes – Chasing Arrows or Chasing our Tails?

I have heard a great deal of grumbling lately about the chasing arrows and the plastic resin numbering system. Today I noticed a blog post (full post written by Debra Atlas at Envirothink is below with a link to her original post). I wanted to put this out to my colleagues who are focused on plastic recycling and get your feedback. You know the issues and opportunities in plastics recycling better than anyone. What do YOU think? Are the plastic resin codes sufficient? Accurate? Helpful? If not, who would need to be involved in designing and implementing a replacement system?  According to Plastics News, the ASTM industry association has been working on an update for years. I’ve heard rumblings of other groups considering undertaking this challenge. Is it a worthy challenge? What do you think?

Confusion Reigns In Regards to Resin Recycling Codes, From Envirothink

There’s a whole lot of confusion out there when it comes to being able to understand those numbers for the different types of plastic and what can and can’t be recycled.

If you think consumers are the only ones sitting in the swirl of confusion, you’re not.

I just read an article reporting on a recent survey by the Bureau of Waste Prevention Reuse and Recycling of the Department of Sanitation for the city of New York (which represents recycling officials from at least 29 states) which clearly illustrates how across the board the confusion lays.

The current resin recycling code is 23 years old and due to be either updated or at least amended next year by ASTM International Inc. Until then, however, it’s apparent that both consumers and professional waste management and government officials are somewhat perplexed.

82% of the people polled said that “people think everything with the same number should be recyclable whether it is a bottle, tub or toy, and 78% said that people think that “chasing arrows mean something is recyclable.”

Around 18 % of those polled said they don’t pay attention to the codes at all. And over 77 % say they get calls and emails from the public who say they don’t understand the codes and/or don’t understand why their municipalities can´t accept all plastics.

It’s definitely a conundrum all around. And it promises to get even more chaotic if the ASTM adds more codes to reflect products that are compostable and the new types of plastic.

With all sorts of new materials being developed and used in the marketplace, it doesn’t look like the confusion will go away anytime in the near future. Best we can do is get out our magnifying glasses and bone up on what those pesky codes mean and what our recycling centers really do accept – at least for now. But when you weigh that against the fact that our landfills are overfull with tons of things that ARE recyclable, doing your homework is worth it.

Original blog post on Envirothink

So, what do you think about 1= PET, 2=HDPE, 3=V, 4=LDPE, 5=PP, 6=PS, 7=Other Plastic Resins? Please leave comments below. Should the resin code system be redesigned? If so, who would need to be involved? And what do you see as the biggest issues with the number system?

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