7 Is The Recycleiest Number That You’ll Ever Know

Recently, I posted about Plastic Caps and Lids recycling.  In that post, I discussed the seven plastic codes used to “identify”  the plastic resin type.  The first six identified the (at the time) six most common plastic resins: PET, HDPE, PVC, LDPE, PP and PS respectively.  The seventh code is designated as “other”.

So, let me digress for a moment.  As we have become more and more diligent in doing the right thing for recycling, the mix in each of my garbage cans has shifted significantly.

More green waste, more recycle, less regular garbage

More green waste, more recycle, less regular garbage

Side bonus: The lower rates for having a smaller regular garbage can saved us $6.37/month.  Some weeks, the regular garbage for our family is so small, I don’t bother to take the can to the street.

Mostly plastic

Mostly plastic

So this leads me back to the title of this post.  As the mix has shifted and the volume of regular garbage has dropped, I’ve noticed that most of what ends up in the regular garbage is plastic packaging or non grocery type plastic bags.  This plastic is not marked with any of the seven recycle resin codes, so we have no local choice, but to throw it into the regular garbage.

This got me wondering more about code 7, the “other” plastic designator.  At a clean tech jobs panel discussion I attended last night, the organizers served appetizers and non-alcoholic drinks, including water.  Given the green, clean tech agenda and a green business consciousness, the hosts provided disposable, biodegradable cups and utensils.  The cups were made from corn, manufactured by NatureWorks LLC.

I’ve seen some pretty ugly plastics designated with the resin code 7, but it turns out, Natureworks’ Corncup (TM) is ALSO designated with the resin code 7 because as a biopolymer, it doesn’t fit within the other plastic categories.

Natureworks' Eco Products (R) CornCup (TM)

Natureworks' Eco Products (R) CornCup (TM)

NatureWorks (R), under their “values and views” section of their website, explains the issue of code 7 well:

It is absolutely incorrect to assume that because a container is marked “7-Other”, the article is made of a particular material or includes a particular chemical such as BPA, because a number of different resins with very different properties and composition, fall within the catch-all category of “7-OTHER”. The SPI code “7-OTHER” should not be used to determine whether an article is safe or unsafe both because the code was not designed for that purpose and because the code cannot be used as a means to determine the particular type of plastic that was used to manufacture the article bearing the code.

If you look carefully at the bottom of the cup, along with the required code 7, they also added the words “compostable”.  Even so, clearly changes in the code numbering need to happen to avoid consumer confusion, especially for biodegradable plastics.

According to Wikipedia’s page on resin identification code,

In 2007, a State Senate bill in California (SB 898) proposed adding a “0” code for compostable polyacitic acid. However, this provision of the bill was removed before passage.

Clearly, more granularity is needed.

Chad M. Wall


4 responses to “7 Is The Recycleiest Number That You’ll Ever Know

  1. More granularity is needed especially because, in our case, for example, some – but not all – #7s are accepted by our recycle center, so determining when things can be recycled and when they can’t becomes a little research task. We do it, but not surely not everyone does.

  2. Compostable cups made out of corn! What will they think of next??? =)

  3. Pingback: The zero waste race between San Francisco and San Jose. « Eco-Trash Solutions

  4. Pingback: Curbside Recycling – Local Variation Gets Smaller « Eco-Footprint Solutions

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