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What I should have known about recycling...

Check carefully—this symbol doesn't always mean "Recycle". On plastic items, when there's a number in the center, it indicates a resin type.

Last night, while watching the nightly news, I heard something that shocked me. It was a segment about recyclable materials, namely plastics, and what the newscaster told me left me feeling completely manipulated and misled...

Like most people, I have always thought that the little triangle of arrows you find stamped on most plastic items (takeout containers, product packaging, for example) meant that the material can be recycled. That's the symbol on every recycling bin, right? It's almost universal. Those arrows always makes me feel a bit better about purchasing something wrapped in unnecessary plastic——it will be reused if I put it in my recycling bin, right?

Apparently not.

When stamped on plastic items, those chasing arrows mean nothing! It's a product stamp used by the plastics industry to indicate the class of resin used—not to indicate any kind of recycle-ability. In fact, the newscaster (and subsequent articles I've read to follow up and confirm), indicate that the only plastic materials that are recyclable are milk jugs, bottles, and some dairy containers. I feel completely misled and dismayed—not only are these items not READILY recyclable—they're not recyclable at all! No one wants them, and that mean all of the plastic Americans use everyday is going into landfills—not into recycle centers, like we've been lead to believe. In fact, recycling centers specifically remove anything that's not a jug, bottle or container and throw it out.

What does this mean? I know I'm going to try my hardest to stop buying any plastic that is not a milk jug, bottle, or dairy container.

Does anyone have any thoughts on this issue? Should I have known about this earlier? Any ideas on how we can cut down on our plastic dependence?


Kermit the Frog said it best--sometimes "It's not easy being green."

share the voices's picture

This is very shocking.

And I feel sort of shame since I've thought that at least I'm trying to recycle most of the time.

Can't believe they used that arrow which is universally known simbol of recycle as a resin type. There must be a standardized symbol for recyclable goods so that people wouldn't get confused anymore.

Speaking of plastic usage in America, it is an umbelievably sad fact that how much plastic and paper dishes and cups are used compared to other countries. (Don't know if it would be the best way, but back at home, Korea, we charge about 50cents for middium size trash bag so that government encourage people to recycle more and it really works)However, it is a good sign that people are getting more interested in green and responsibility.

I think starting with using personal cup or tumbler is one of good ways to consider the earth.

becca's picture

not about recycling, but Rwanda...


First, thank you for your kind words on my journal entry about going to Rwanda. I'd love to meet up with the few people on here at a coffee shop in Kigali. I am not sure how I could contact them. They don't have a journal so I can't post there and last time I posted in the Resource about meeting people in Uganda - I received little if any feedback. Do you have any suggestions?

I hope your summer is going well and the sun is shining and your feet get to run in the grass barefoot. May your actions be intentional and joy filled.


MWANA WA MKE's picture


Kids Across Africa - Rwanda is fantastic. I have just newly joined from Kenya. If you need to meet people from Kenya,heres one ;-) Hope your project in Uganda as a success.

Best Wishes!

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