Chasing arrows does not always mean recycle-ability
When tossing something out, many of us are in the habit of looking for the chasing arrows or “recycling symbol” at the bottom which contains a number. This is a great practice, but not all the numbers mean the same thing or can be recycled in the same way. The recycling numbers are shorthand for different types of plastic and refer to the chemical makeup of each type of plastic. Different plastics are created from different chemicals and processes, and the type of plastic used to package a product depends on its function, for example, if the plastic should be rigid and sturdy or flexible and stretchy, and whether it needs to be food safe or non-reactive to the chemicals in the product it stores. Some plastics are easier or more profitable to recycle, and some items with the chasing arrows symbol are rarely recyclable curbside, if at all! For example, a styrofoam cup is a #6 plastic and plastic bags are #2 or #4, but both of these items must be handled by specific, less abundant recycling plants, and are not accepted at many commercial recycling plants.