Sort plastic by shape, not by number
Whether you've been recycling since the 1990s 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.).
- Round plastic containers that can hold 6 ounces or more, with a wider rim than base, and typically contain products such as salsa, margarine, cottage cheese, hummus, etc. (no drink cups).
- 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 recyclables and usually end up at paper mills where they contaminate the paper. These items are garbage.
- Trays from microwaveable meals, deli products, prepackaged meals and snacks. Take-out, deli or other food containers that are not specifically round plastic containers, including hinged containers, square snack containers, food containers with a plastic pull-tab, bowls, etc. These items 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.
- Plastic packaging that doesn't conform to the bottle, jar, bucket or round container shapes, such as blister packaging or plastic wrap (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 greater Portland.
Search Metro's online tool for options