You’ve got a plastic cup from Starbucks in your hand. It’s empty, and you’re ready to throw it into your recycling bin – so what comes first?
You turn over the cup to see the chasing arrow symbol with #5 in the center, signifying the type of resin that makes up your cup.
Now, imagine a world where these numbered resin codes don’t exist. Instead, recycling is organized by the type of product or package. All you have to understand is that you’re holding a plastic cup, and it’s recyclable in your community program.
Today, 80 percent of Americans have access to a plastics recycling program.
#This could actually be the future of plastics recycling. Instead of using a resin identification coding system, we could be shifting to a system based on the type of product or package.
In 1988, the resin coding system was created to meet recyclers’ needs while providing manufacturers with a consistent, uniform system that was applicable nationwide.
But now that technology has become more effective at sorting different plastics and curbside programs have become more widespread, the resin coding system may eventually become a thing of the past.
Consumers may find product or package-based recycling easier because they won’t have to search for the number and wonder about its overall make-up. Many communities are already recycling this way.
On Board Yet?
If you’re still confused. Let’s break it down.
Earth911.com recently asked readers, “How is plastic accepted in your curbside program?” Of the readers who responded, 44 percent said it is accepted by number, while only 15 percent said it was accepted by product.
At the present time, many curbside programs still collect plastics using the resin identification system. However, the idea of a product or package-based collection system isn’t a new phenomena. According to Judith Dunbar, director of Environmental and Technical Issues for the American Chemistry Council (ACC), some communities started catching on to the idea in the late 90s when they began collecting “all plastic bottles.”
The ACC got on board and began encouraging other communities to accept recycling in this manner. Data collected by ACC and individual communities showed that it was actually easier for consumers to understand. In fact, the resin identification coding system was never meant to be used by consumers. It was put in place for recyclers to identify plastics, before more sophisticated equipment became available.
Today, product or package-based collection is used in many communities, including the District of Columbia and three major surrounding areas: Arlington County, Va., Montgomery County, Md. and Anne Arundel County, Md. Many cities and towns in California are also adopting this method of collection. About 60 percent of California’s collection programs accept “all bottles and household containers.”