Recycle or Toss? Don’t Just Guess!

When in doubt, throw it out? Or, when in doubt, recycle?

It’s difficult to set black-and-white rules on what is recyclable and what is not, because it all comes down to your specific waste hauler or trash company. What’s accepted for recycling in one community may not be in a neighboring area.

Most of us know the universal sign for recycling, the three chasing arrows in a triangle.

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But this symbol below—three chasing arrows with a number inside—is more confusing.

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No, these numbers having nothing to do with serving size or nutritional content. They designate the type of plastic the item is made from.

Plastic #1—or, if you dare to refer to it as its proper name, polyethylene terephthalate—is the most widely used plastic. Think soda bottles, water bottles, and peanut butter jars. There are seven different types of plastic designations that you will find on commonly used items.

This quick video explains the seven different types of plastic and offers tips on their best use: Here’s What Those Little Numbers Inside Recycling Symbols Really Mean. 

And remember, just because you see an item sporting the chasing-arrows symbol with a number inside it, that does not mean the item is recyclable in your area. Contact your local waste hauler (take a peek at the trash truck next time they come by to figure out who it is) or visit the hauler’s website for information about what can and cannot be recycled in your area.

The first step, of course, is to limit the plastic we use altogether. The next step is to find out what goes in your blue bin to ensure our discards can be resurrected into something new to save resources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and contribute to the circular economy.

Video courtesy of Evon

— Angela Vincent
Posted on Mar 27, 2017

Summary: When in doubt, throw it out? Or, when in doubt, recycle? It’s difficult to set black-and-white rules on what is recyclable and what is not, because it all comes down to your specific waste hauler or trash company. What’s accepted for recycling in one community may not be in a neighboring area.