DECODING THE TINY TRIANGLE
On most plastic containers, jars and generally on plastic packaging of things you buy, you find these three arrows, printed or engraved on the package with a number in the middle and sometimes letters underneath!
You know, for you or me, it can all be simply plastic and this small stamp can be misleading. Not all plastic is alike, nor recyclable! The number in the triangle scat shows the level of difficulty in the recycling process of certain packaging as opposed to others.
In 1988 the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) implemented this informative system so that the recycler would be able to see the difference between different types of plastics in their classification. The basic information in the triangle describes the grade of plastic and is nowadays popular in many countries.
It is something like a global plastic cryptography.
In cryptology, a code is a method used to encrypt a message that operates at the level of meaning; that is, words or phrases are converted into something else.
1. PETE – Polyethylene – Recyclable
The easiest plastic for recycling. Very often used for beverage bottles, water bottles, and many snack packs. It is would be wise not to refill it since it easily gets bacteria. It is recycled into bottles and polyester fibers.
2. HDPE – high-density polyethylene -Very Recyclable
Another easily recyclable material. Mainly used in detergent containers, bleach, milk containers, body and hair care products as well as various other liquids, such as specialized cleaners, motor oils etc. It is usually recycled into bottles and bags.
3. PVC – polyvinyl chloride – Not Recyclable
These plastics are everywhere. It is popular in toys, furniture, pipes, decorative items, and packaging. It is difficult to recycle and PVC, in general, is a serious threat to the environment and the general health.
4. LDPE Low-density polyethylene – Not always Recyclable
Typically used in food wrappers and all sorts of taking aways. Grocery stores, pharmacists, liqueur stores also use it. It is easy to recycle it into the same material again.
5. PP – Polypropylene – Not always Recyclable
This plastic is found in clothing, shoes, bottles, cords and ropes. It’s recycling is relatively ok and it is made into fibers again.
6. PS – Polystyrene – Not Recyclable
This is the plastic-like white foam. You meet it in some food packaging and many disposable items, portable refrigerators etc. It is difficult to recycle due to its big volume, size and content. As it is extremely light and bulky, it is very popular in various industries for the transportation of goods in long distances and it is difficult to be replaced with anything else
7. Others – Generally not Recyclable
This could be a cocktail of all the above and again it is difficult to recycle.
Generally, the numbers 1 and 2 are the items that we can throw away comfortably in the recycling bins on the streets. For all the other classifications, you would need to get informed at the place where you live for instructions. In Greece, and other neighbor countries people throw away paper, plastic, metal and “other” in the same bin, so the above classification this might be quite advanced. However, it is worth to learn things and to function with awareness. To achieve sustainability we can start with consistent small-scale projects, and eventually, the projects will turn big!
Unbelievable but true this is a map of a garbage landfill in the Pacific Ocean.
Specifically, it is an illustrated map of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Dating from the 1950’s it has a reputation as the most disgusting dump on the planet. It looks like an iceberg of garbage, while the majority of it, is in the water and the bottom, of the sea, causing obvious detrimental problems in our ecosystem.
Plastic does not biodegrade and is virtually indestructible.
With the sun’s warm rays plastic decomposes over time and it becomes tiny pieces –microplastic. This is an uncontrolled pollution effect and inevitably it poisons the environment.