On cans and jars, there is a little triangle made of arrows, and in the middle of the triangle there is a number. The triangle of arrows is the recycle symbol, and the number inside it is the resin code for the plastic. Up until I started packaging my own products, I paid very little attention to these numbers. I simply assumed plastic was….well, plastic, and tossed it into the recycle bin without further thought.
Then I started researching what bottles and jars our scrubs, shea, and oils would be packaged into. I was overwhelmed with all the different kinds of plastic there are out there: PET, HDPE, LDPE, PP, PVC and PS just to name a few. Each type of plastic is labeled with it’s own resin code inside the recycle symbol. Each number is sorted into same resin codes and then recycled together–the different numbers cannot be recycled together or with anything else. Here is a list of what the numbers mean:
According to The Straight Dope, Types 1 and 2 are commonly recycled (27% and 7% respectively). Types 3-6 have a 1% recycle rate, and because it is a mix of different types of plastic, NONE of Type 7 is recycled and it all ends up going straight in a landfill. In fact, many people feel that putting a recycle symbol around the numbers leads people to believe it’s all being recycled, when in fact a very little is.
In addition to having recycling implications, the resin code also can imply what chemicals are used to form the plastic. Choose plastics with the recycling code 1, 2 or 5, because recycling (resin) codes 3 and 7 are more likely to contain phthalates and bisphenol-a (another known endocrine disruptor).
Because I’m in the habit of checking labels for my cosmetics, I’ve also started looking at my food bottles to see what resin code things are made out of. SafeMama checked and found resin number 7 on her Gerber baby food container. In her case, it ended up being 7 because it was a mix of 1 & 2 resins, not because it contained BPA or phthalates.
I found something different when I looked on my plastic bottle of Dole Peaches. I found resin code 7, and when I emailed them for the reason it was that particular code they emailed me back a preemptive answer about BPA’s.
“Thank you for contacting us.
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a substance used in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastics and the production of tin can epoxy resin sealants and coatings. These resins are inert materials used as protective liners in metal cans to maintain the quality of canned foods and beverages.
The use of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins in food packaging, including those made with BPA, has been and continues to be recognized as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the European Commission Scientific Committee on Foods, the United Kingdom Food Standards Agency, the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare and other regulatory agencies throughout the world. These materials have been approved by the U.S. FDA and for more than 40 years have been a part of food preservation. The FDA has found these materials to be safe and pose no risk to consumers.”
So, let’s look at those codes with the resin numbers highlighted that have the lowest risk of leaching chemicals into surrounding food/liquid/cosmetics. The numbers that aren’t highlighted have a greater leaching probability, with resin code 7 having the highest risk.
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Not only is the resin/recycle code 7 not recycled, but it also has the highest risk of leaching endocrine disruptors. So, just like I avoid fragrance oils, I now also avoid resin/recycle codes 3,6 & 7 as much as possible. Not only for the chemical leaching, but also because they are not as recycled as number 1 & 2 are.
We also are loads of fun, all this doom and gloom about phthalates, endocrine disruptors, and recycle codes notwithstanding. In fact, we have some fun things in store for the upcoming weeks! Tutorials! Contest! Fun Pictures!