Knowing Your Plastic Codes: No. 1

Well, we’re into week 2 of “Plastic-Free February”, and it’s almost time to come clean on the plastic challenges I faced during week 1.  But before launching into confessions of plastic indiscretions, I thought it would be helpful to talk briefly about the different types of plastic.  So for the next 7 posts, I’ll talk about the 7 types of plastic according to those little recycling symbols on the bottom of your bottle, top of your coffee lid, and flip side of your shampoo.  Whether you are worried about your health or just always wondered about those little numbers inside the recycle symbol, just think how eco-smart you’ll be at your next party.

PET or PETE is polyethylene terephthalate. Turn over a plastic soft drink or water bottle and you are sure to find the number 1.  In addition to drink bottles. number 1′s are used for cooking oils, salad dressings, peanut butter, and even non-food bottles like medicine.  Some say you can remember not to reuse bottles with this number by thinking 1 is for “use it once”.  However, as far as I can tell, the main hazard from reusing the bottle is due to possible bacteria growth.  At our house, we use stainless reusable bottles we bought and skip the whole debate altogether.  PETE plastic is cheap, light, and recyclers like to take it and turn it into fleece, fiber, bags, furniture, carpet, and sometimes new bottles.
Now here’s my “plastic challenge” story of the week.  I went to a local French cafe where they make everything fresh, and ordered a cup of water with my lunch.  I was handed a plastic disposable cup.  I asked if instead they had any glasses.  I was told yes, and handed a corn-based plastic disposable “glass”.  Ok, I thought we’re moving in the right direction.  But I pushed it once more and said, “No, I’m looking for something that you are going to wash and reuse.”  So the woman helping me went to the back of the bakery and returned wiping off something that looked like an oversized shot glass.  She said she washed it for me! At that point I’m thinking, “Why did I open my big mouth?”  Did I use that bar glass for my water?  Yep, I did ask for it after all.   Maybe I should have had her fill it with whatever was in there previously, because by now there was a line of people waiting and watching the whole interaction and taking a shot of something would have been the cherry on top.  (Do you think the cashier is now writing in her blog about this crazy woman who is trying not to use plastic?)
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One Comment

  1. Posted April 6, 2011 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    I just read an interesting article about the history of recycling. Apparently, recycling was seen as a patriotic duty during WWII – when items were reused to support the war effort. But after the war, frugality wasn’t in fashion – we needed consumers. Unfortunately, convenience has won over the public – recycling isn’t widely supported. Glad you mentioned reusable – we are Back2tap, a women-owned company which provides customized stainless steel bottles for fundraisers and other programs.

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