Ever notice the variety of numbers inside the triangular recycling symbol? Essentially there are 7 different types of plastics that all range in varieties of production, composition, and safety levels. Most that have researched the mysterious numbers have discovered that numbers 2, 4, and 5 are the safest plastics to use for food storage and drinking from while number 1 is considered okay to use (while poor 3, 6, and 7 have been deemed harmful after long-term use).
Plastics can consist of soda bottles, water bottles, milk jugs, saran wrap, grocery bags, packaging containers, Styrofoam, and LEXAN (ranging from 1 to 7). Unfortunately, not all of these types of plastics are recyclable in numerous municipalities. This can be due to lack of processing and sorting equipment or people, or local sources that will be able to reuse the plastics in their products. In Boston alone, grocery bags, saran wrap, packing bubbles, and Styrofoam are some of the most prolific non-recyclable plastics for the area. There are some companies popping up that collect and reuse Styrofoam and packing peanuts to manufacture picture frames and tea or coffee cups. Although not always the best to constantly use during consumption of liquids, it’s better than the materials ending up in a landfill.
Overall, the best method is to limit your use of plastics overall. Instead of buying bottled water, just buy a decent filter for your sink or a water pitcher, and then use your own reusable water bottles. Although it’s very tough to avoid purchasing something without plastics, eventually we can hope that manufacturers make better decisions for the consumer in the near future.