If it looks nothing like resin numbers 1-6, then you may have a mystery plastic #7 on your hands. The catch-all category for “other” plastics, this group is perhaps the most difficult to define, and even harder to recycle. A good rule of thumb: don’t buy any plastic products without a plastic resin number in the first place so that you can avoid these types of hard-to-recycle plastic mysteries! But if you indeed do have such plastic recycling challenges, let us help you sort them out.
Environmental facts about plastic #7
Since this category is so hard to define, it can be difficult to ascertain their environmental impact. Nevertheless, here are a few points to consider:
- Aliases: “Other” plastics, styrene acrylonitrile (AS/SAN), acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), polycarbonate, polyactic acid (PLA).
- Consumption rates: Of all the oil produced in the world, around 4% is used to produce plastic products.
- Pollution: Many #7 plastic containers (rigid polycarbonate plastics in particular) like water bottles are made with bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical that is used in a whole host of consumer products and linked to many health problems and environmental degradation.
- Decomposition: Plastics take hundreds of years to break down, and yet UK households use about 5 million tonnes annually, parts of which are mixed plastics in the form of packaging.
Where you’ll find plastic #7 in your home
Plastic #7 can be a bit hard to identify, especially if it doesn’t come with a recycling number! As a result, when in doubt, a mystery plastic that doesn’t fit any other resin category in the 1 through 6 groups is likely a plastic #7. Here are some ideas of plastic #7 you may find in your home:
- Bio-based plastics made from potato, sugar, or corn derivatives
- Citrus juice bottles
- Ketchup bottles
- Large reusable water bottles and containers
- Oven baking bags
- Plastic plates and cups
Tips for #7 plastic recycling
Knowing how to recycle plastic #7 will largely depend on what type of material it is made from. If you can determine its component parts and they fit within plastic resin categories 1 through 6, follow those recycling instructions. Otherwise, here are a few pointers:
- Bio-based plastics: Known as polyactic acid (PLA) plastic, bio-based plastics should be sent to commercial composting facilities (they generally cannot be composted in your backyard compost bin or vermicompost bin). Do not mix them with other types of plastics in your recycling bin as they can be mistaken for things like HDPE or LDPE and go on to contaminate recycling batches.
- Curbside recycling: In some instances, your curbside recycling program will accept #7 plastic items if there’s a way to identify for certain that they are #7 plastics. Check with your solid waste management office or recycling office to find out what their policy is.