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Know Your Chasing Arrow Symbol: A Primer

The world uses plastics in more things than any other material. It is literally in, or plays a part in making, just about everything. Much of the plastic we use is recyclable, but not all of it; here is a primer to help when you visit your plastic recycler in Kentucky and drop of your waste.

How to Tell What You Have

To make it easier to recycle plastics, the Resin Identification Coding System is used. This system assigns a number to each type of plastic. That number is imprinted inside the “chasing arrow” recycling symbol. Here is what each number means.

#1: PET: Polyethylene Terephthalate

This is the most recycled plastic in the world, is polyester and is used in food packaging and water bottles. It is clear, strong and lightweight, although it breaks down when exposed to sunlight or heat, which makes it a poor reuse option without it being recycled. PET is recycled into tiny flakes or is shredded if it is not reprocessed to make new PET products.

#2: HDP: High Density Polyethylene

HDP is a stiff plastic, which makes it ideal for packaging. It has a lot of outside applications as it is impact and moisture resistant. It can be reused but will crack and weaken with time. It is lightweight and durable, making it the “go-to” plastic for milk cartons, plastic bags, Tupperware and household chemical containers.

#3: PVC: Polyvinyl Chloride

The most recognizable form of PVC are white plastic pipes used in construction, landscaping, healthcare, etc. It has a high tolerance to sunlight and the weather, but is known as the “poison plastic” because it can leach toxic chemicals during its lifespan. Only about 1% of PVC is recyclable

#4: LDPE: Low Density Polyethylene

Food packaging and consumer goods packaging are the most prominent use of LDPE. The most prominent use are plastic grocery store bags. That reality has led to recycling centers adapting to handle LDPEs.

#5: PP: Polypropylene

PP is lightweight and durable, which makes it ideal for drinking straws and in chips and cereal packaging. As a recycled product, it is used to make landscaping products, brooms, bins and trays.

#6: PS: Polystyrene

PS is more readily identified as “Styrofoam.” It is inexpensive to produce, lightweight and remarkably durable. It has many uses but is not typically reusable or recyclable.

#7: Other Plastics

Plastics with the #7 are polycarbonates. Some are recyclable and some are not. It includes plastics made of cornstarch and others that are compostable, but not recyclable. Nonrecyclable products included in the number 7 will have a PLA underneath the chasing arrow symbol.

Every plastic recycler in Kentucky uses the chasing arrow number system to help sort their plastic. You can help by presorting them, which at least will make intake go quicker.

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