NOVEMBER 16, 2013 BY 

Second in our series of TV18 Recycling PSAs: More on Plastics

Recycling is an industry that is frequently changing. At all of our Zero Waste events, we are constantly educating about what is the proper way to recycle the plastic lids on plastic bottles, plastic straws, and plastic utensils.  Confusing the issue is the compostables stream – which is why at our zero events we require all items to be compostable. Having plastics in that stream contaminates the future dirt that the compost facility creates.


In our last post, you learned about the utmost importance and history of the mystical mobius and the difference between plastics (1: Polyethylene/Terephthalate, 2: HiDensityPolyethylene; 3: Vinyl; 4: LowDensity Polyethylene; 5: Polypropylene; 6: Polystyrene; 7: Other).   If there is no mobius and especially no number on the item, there is no way to determine which type of plastic it was made from, which means it can’t be recycled and must go into the trash instead of potentially contaminating the future stream of plastics.

But in addition to the mobius, size is a big issue with Single Stream Recycling.  Plastic caps/lids, straws, and utensils are simply too small too small to recycle because the large machine that sorts the recycling has many moving parts. These smaller items get stuck in the machine, and clog the mechanisms as well as endanger the workers (big machine flattens a water bottle with a cap on it = tiny cannon).  So technically, if you squeeze the air out of your water bottle and put the lid on, or put all your bottle lids into one giant plastic container (milk gallon) of the same type of plastic, they might be recyclable, but plastics get sorted, flattened, and bailed in Steamboat, then shipped to Denver, resorted, then shipped abroad to be recycled. There’s always a risk that the lids will line the Interstate – or worse, the ocean or an animal’s belly – on their way to their next life.ocean plastic

So Recycling Champions! Consider these tips prior to your purchases.  Buy reusable containers – purchase products that can be recycled at the end of their life or have endless uses, not after only one use. Skip the straws entirely, or buy compostable ones and join the Residential Compost Program, replace plastic bottle consumption with a reusable water bottle, and replace plastic utensils with silverware or wood utensils. Look for mobius symbols and numbers when purchasing, and try not to use things that are too small for the recycle stream. Together, we can change the world!

Resource – Purge Plastics for Better Food Safety

View all 11 Recycling Tips here