If your workplace wants to be more environmentally friendly, you may have set up a recycling program to encourage change. Some employees may overdo it and throw just about every kind of plastic under the sun into these bins; but, some municipalities are more strict than others and won’t accept certain products—especially old 5- and 3-gallon water jugs. Take a look at why some plastics aren’t acceptable and why you may need to adjust your notions about recycling in the workplace.
What Are Resin ID Codes?
If you’ve ever looked at the base of a milk jug, ketchup bottle, water bottle, or any other plastic product, you’ve probably seen a small number inside of the recycling triangle. These small triangles are plastered on all sorts of products and are known as ‘resin identification codes.’
Resin identification codes classify products by the type of plastic they are made from. For example, triangle symbols with a “2” inside of them are all made out of High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE). To avoid the lengthy name, an HDPE product is simply called Plastic #2. There are seven ID categories in all; and while most city recycling programs accept plastics #1 and #2 since they are easy to break down, products made out of plastic #7 are typically not collected.
What’s So Bad About Plastic #7?
Unlike other resin identification categories, Plastic #7 is a catch-all category to describe plastics that are made from hybrids of the other six resin categories. Unfortunately, these hybrid plastics not only leach toxic chemicals, like bisphenol A, they are extremely hard to break down.
Since different plastics break down at different temperatures, a processing facility would have a difficult time breaking down Plastic #7 products due to their different melting properties. Thus, instead of bothering to break down your office’s old 3- and 5-gallon water jugs (usually made of Plastic #7), these items would most likely be sent to the landfill.
What Can My Office Do to Fix the Problem?
First, you don’t have to give up recycling altogether. Make sure that your fellow employees know which plastics are safe to recycle (Plastics #1 and #2 are often best). Once your office figures out the best recycling options, the next step is to figure out a way to avoid Plastic #7 products and any other difficult-to-recycle plastics.
For instance, instead of having employees get their water from dispensers with plastic inserts, you could look into a filtration and purification product that runs directly into your main water line. This will not only reduce pollutants due to the manufacturing of water bottle jugs, but it will also prevent your employees from trying to recycle these old containers, which would most likely end up in landfills anyway.