In a recent conversation, I mentioned that I reuse plastic water bottles, and the person to whom I was talking (forgive me, I don't remember who that was) said that some plastic can be harmful because it can release toxic particles into the water. I should be using only plastic with a certain number on the bottom, to indicate it would not release said toxins.
I said, I don't think that's what the number on the bottom means. Has something to do with recycling, I recall, but not sure what. (There was a hoax email not long ago that wrongly frightened people about the toxins in plastic water bottles. Check it out on snopes.com.)
So, in good researcher fashion, I looked it up on the internet. Sure enough, the little numbers within the triangle on the bottom of plastic things are used for recycling. Did you know all this? Keep in mind that all this plastic comes from oil, so if we can recycle more, we'll be helping to need less oil.
Below is a reprint from About.com (It's a little long winded, but very interesting, I think.):
The symbol code we’re familiar with—a single digit ranging from 1 to 7 and surrounded by a triangle of arrows—was designed by The Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) in 1988 to allow consumers and recyclers to differentiate types of plastics while providing a uniform coding system for manufacturers.
Easy Plastics to Recycle
The easiest and most common plastics to recycle are made of polyethylene terephthalate (PETE) and are assigned the number 1. Examples include soda and water bottles, medicine containers, and many other common consumer product containers. Once it has been processed by a recycling facility, PETE can become fiberfill for winter coats, sleeping bags and life jackets. It can also be used to make bean bags, rope, car bumpers, tennis ball felt, combs, cassette tapes, sails for boats, furniture and, of course, other plastic bottles.
Number 2 is reserved for high-density polyethylene plastics. These include heavier containers that hold laundry detergents and bleaches as well as milk, shampoo and motor oil. Plastic labeled with the number 2 is often recycled into toys, piping, plastic lumber and rope. Like plastic designated number 1, it is widely accepted at recycling centers.
Plastics Less Commonly Recycled
Polyvinyl chloride, commonly used in plastic pipes, shower curtains, medical tubing, vinyl dashboards, and even some baby bottle nipples, gets number 3. Like numbers 4 (wrapping films, grocery and sandwich bags, and other containers made of low-density polyethylene) and 5 (polypropylene containers used in Tupperware, among other products), few municipal recycling centers will accept it due to its very low rate of recyclability.
Another Useful Plastic to Recycle
Number 6 goes on polystyrene (Styrofoam) items such as coffee cups, disposable cutlery, meat trays, packing “peanuts” and insulation. It is widely accepted because it can be reprocessed into many items, including cassette tapes and rigid foam insulation.
Hardest Plastics to Recycle
Last, but far from least, are items crafted from various combinations of the aforementioned plastics or from unique plastic formulations not commonly used. Usually imprinted with a number 7 or nothing at all, these plastics are the most difficult to recycle and, as such, are seldom collected or recycled. More ambitious consumers can feel free to return such items to the product manufacturers to avoid contributing to the local waste stream, and instead put the burden on the makers to recycle or dispose of the items properly.
End of reprint. I don't know about you, but recycling is the one thing I don't do well as a fulltime RVer. I don't usually stay long enough in a town to find the recycling center, and who's got room to haul around old jugs and bottles, looking for one. I'd be very interested in hearing how you deal with this. Leave a comment and get me headed in the right direction.