Which Plastics are good or bad for environment - Understanding the various Resin Codes
The plastic problem
A walk around a beach will tell you how much plastic waste is already there in our ecosystem – at some places you’ll find more plastic than sand.
But at the same time, we (in India) are still far from having a sustainable and economical replacement for plastic. Till the time a such an alternative is discovered and put in use, we can judiciously optimise the use of plastic.
In order to do that, let us dive deep into the types of plastic and how can we have least environmental impact.
The 3 Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
We are well aware of the 3Rs, it's not the movie RRR. It's reuse, reduce & recycle, three best friends of mother earth. While we cannot eliminate plastic entirely at this point, there are ways in which we can use these three Rs to rationalise the use.
In this article, we will be focusing on the third R – Recycling - to understand the multiple elements and the conditions that make recycling possible.
Recycling plastic begins with sorting the plastic waste with non-plastic, and further segmenting the plastic waste into recyclable and non-recyclable (and that’s where the different coloured dustbins you see on the kerbside come into picture).
Sorting of plastic waste
Most of the rigid plastic packaging like bottles / cans etc. that you will find will have a ♻ symbol. One of the most common misconceptions is that if a product has the ♻ symbol on it, the product is recyclable. However, that is not the case. ♻ is a symbol to identify the type of plastic, which depends on the number written within the symbol. The symbol is commonly called as Plastic Resin Identification Code.
Resin Identification Codes
When you see any plastic bottle, you will find one of the following symbols at the bottom part:
Insight into Recyclability
While Resin codes 1, 2, 4, 5 are easier to recycle, it is best to avoid using plastic packs made with Resin codes 3 and 6, due to difficulty in recycling / unavailability of recycling units due to lower demand.
Resin code 7 includes all the plastic which cannot be identified in any of the 1-6 categories, and hence, its almost impossible to say what kind of plastic it is.
Where are they found?
Resin code 1 (PETE or PET)
Fashion items and textile garment items, construction materials, packaging of foods and beverages, personal care products, and many other consumer products.
Resin code 2 (HDPE)
Milk jugs, plastic bottle caps, detergent bottles and shampoo bottles. Ethiek packaging is also made by recycling HDPE plastic.
Some others are detergent bottles, cleaners, motor oils etc. It is even converted into a roadside curb.
Resin code 3 (PVC)
Pipes, windows, door frames, thermal insulation, automotive parts.
Resin code 4 (LDPE)
Resin code 5 (PP)
To make food containers used for products like yogurt, sour cream and margarine. It's also made into straws, rope, carpet and bottle caps.
Resin code 6 (PS)
Plastic cutlery, fast food boxes and protective packaging for electronics and toys
Consciousness at home
With the above resin codes, a conscious choice can be made while buying products. This could be a first step.
We can take this a step ahead and also segregate waste at homes by maintaining two dustbins to start with – one where we put the biodegradable waste (organic waste), and another bucket where we can put recyclable waste (like above mentioned plastics, glass, wooden waste etc). Segregating the waste at an early stage helps in retaining the recyclability of the plastic waste.
And who knows, this could be our jelly fish story 😊