Recycling numbers are found on the bottoms of plastic containers within the chasing arrows symbol ♻. These numbers are used to describe the type of plastic. Most numbers are easily recyclable (#3 and #6 may be more difficult).
1 (PET or PETE): Single use. Common for water bottles. May leach phthalates (hormone-disruptors) if used repeatedly. Bacteria build-up is a concern if reused without washing.
2 (HDPE): Reusable. More durable than #1.
3 (PVC or Vinyl or polyvinyl chloride): Avoid. Can leach phthalates (hormone-disruptors). May contain lead as a stabilizer. Common for packaging, toys, shower curtains, siding for homes, mini-blinds, more.
4 (LDPE): Mostly used for plastic wrap and plastic bags. Not known to leach chemicals.
5 (PP or Polypropylene): Reusable. More durable than #1.
6 (PS or Polystyrene): Avoid. Can leach styrene (hormone-disruptor).
7 (PC or Polycarbonate): Reuse with Caution or simply Avoid. Research has shown as the bottles age or when they are washed with harsh detergents or put in the dishwasher they leach Bisphenol-A (BPA), an estrogen compound that can affect the endocrine and reproductive systems. Recent research has shown even brand new PC bottles can leach BPA. If you choose to use them, clean with white vinegar or 1-2 drops liquid soap. Rinse thoroughly.
**LMG NOTES ON PLASTIC: For water on the go or food storage at home try to use non-plastic containers. Stainless steel water bottles are a sound investment. Or, simply wash and reuse and empty glass juice bottle. Many brands and sizes of covered glass or ceramic bowls are available for food. Thermos (R) brand offers many options for food storage on the go.
Remember plastics start to deteriorate when exposed to extreme heat or cold. If frozen, microwaved, or left in a hot car, plastics can leach harmful chemicals.
Never microwave food in plastic.
Clean any plastics with white vinegar or 1-2 drops liquid soap. Rinse thoroughly. Discontinue use if scratched or cloudy, or otherwise worn.
LMG Articles of Interest:
Sigg Reveals Bottles Did Contain BPA, Fall 2009
Green Gifts for Everyone on Your List, Fall 2009
Greener Cleaners: Fresh Air?, Spring 2008
New Car Smell, Fall 07
Fun in the Sun, Summer 2006
Lead for Lunch?, Winter 2006
Picnic Perfect, June 2004