Sort plastic by shape, not by number
Whether you've been recycling since the 90s or you're navigating plastic packaging newer to the market, you may be wondering, "Which numbers can I recycle?" Don't. The numbers you see on plastics, often in a triangle of chasing arrows, do not mean anything when it comes to what goes in your home recycling bin. Those numbers are typically used by the industry to indicate what type of plastic it is, not whether it is part of a local recycling program.
Ignore the numbers. Ignore the arrows. Sort by shape.
These items are OK in your recycling container – rinse thoroughly
- Plastic bottles, jugs and jars 6 ounces or larger, any container with a threaded neck (for a screw-on lid) or neck narrower than the base. This includes milk jugs, peanut butter jars, and bottles that held personal care and cleaning products (shampoo, laundry soap, etc.).
- Plastic tubs 6 ounces or larger, usually round with a wider rim than base and contain products such as salsa, margarine, cottage cheese, hummus, etc.
- Planting/nursery pots larger than 4 inches in diameter and made of rigid (rather than crinkly or flexible) plastic. Remove any loose dirt.
- Buckets 5 gallons or smaller. Handles are OK.
Do not include these items in your recycling container
- Plastic bags. They are recyclable, but not at the curb. Plastic bags are a serious problem for recycling facilities. They get caught in machinery, which causes costly shut-downs of sorting lines to cut the bags out of the equipment. Take plastic bags back to stores or drop them off at recycling centers where they are collected separately from other plastics.
- Bottles that have contained hazardous materials such as motor oil, pesticides, herbicides. Bottles that have contained cleaning products are OK.
- Lids. They are too small or too flat to be sorted out of commingled recyclables and usually end up at paper mills where they contaminate the paper. They are recyclable at some recycling centers, but at home they are garbage.
- Trays from microwaveable meals, deli products, prepackaged meals and snacks. Take-out, deli or other food containers that are not specifically tubs, including clamshell-type containers, boxes, bowls, etc. Some of these are accepted at recycling centers. Others are garbage.
- Styrofoam or other foam products (cups, meat trays, egg cartons, packaging foam, packing peanuts, etc.).
- Plastic or plastic-coated beverage cups, lids or straws. These are garbage at home. Some recyclers may take plastic cups.
- Plastic packaging that doesn't conform to the bottle, jar, bucket or tub shapes, such as blister packaging, clamshell or film (stretch or shrink wrap, bubble wrap and bags), or containers smaller than 6 ounces.
Some plastic materials that can't be recycled at home can be dropped off for recycling at some recycling businesses in the region.
Search Metro's online tool for options