Packaging Codes: An Explanation

If you take a close look at the bottom of a plastic bottle or jar, you might notice a symbol consisting of a number surrounded by a triangle or three arrows in the shape of a triangle—this is called the resin identification code. Many people think that this symbol means that the package can be recycled. In fact, according to the Canadian Plastic Industry Association, “the code is intended solely to identify resin content”. A resin identification code does not mean the package can be recycled.

Most plastic containers are made from one of six resins (or plastic polymers). In 1988—before the widespread use of automated sorting technology—the US Society of the Plastics Industry developed the resin codes as a way to make it easier to sort the plastic for recycling. Material re-manufacturers rely on receiving bales of the same resin, as even a small amount of the wrong resin can impact the quality of the recycled material. The resin code #7 serves as a catch-all category, and can indicate that the container is biodegradable, compostable, a composite of multiple resins, or a laminated plastic, none of which are accepted in Multi-Material BC (MMBC)’s packaging and printed paper recycling program.

It’s important to note that using the resin code is voluntary for producers of packaging. And, because the resin codes don’t indicate whether a plastic is recyclable, MMBC discourages residents from using the codes to identify whether a package is accepted in our packaging and printed paper recycling program. Instead, we encourage you to refer to the list of accepted materials.

Source: http://www.plasticsindustry.org/AboutPlastics/content.cfm?ItemNumber=823&navItemNumber=2144