What types of plastic can you recycle?
When trying to figure out what type of plastic you can recycle in the bin, just ask yourself: Is this a bottle, tub or jug? If yes, recycle. If no, trash.
At Millennium, we use the categories “bottles, tubs and jugs” because most of the items that fall under these categories are able to be sorted by our equipment and are desired by our end-processors, so it’s an easy rule to help you decipher what types of containers are able to be recycled.
Odd items outside of these categories, like the frail containers that hold fruit (often called clamshells), party platters, styrofoam containers, or items with mixed materials like toys or hoses are NOT able to be processed by recycling equipment and are typically trash (if they can be reused, you may be able to donate to a food shelter, thrift store or nonprofit instead of the trash).
What’s Considered a Bottle, Tub or Jug?
Bottles: Items like water and soda bottles, cleaning spray bottles (remove the nozzle), shampoo bottles, lotion and hand-soap bottles (remove the pump), dish soap bottles, detergent bottles, coffee creamer bottles, condiment bottles like salad dressing, ketchup, etc. Plastic bottles are very recyclable. If the cap is just plastic (not a pump or nozzle), place back on if completely empty.
Tubs: Items like margarine tubs, yogurt tubs, whipped cream tubs, deli meat tubs, tupperware tubs, chip dip tubs, sour cream tubs, potato salad tubs, ice cream tubs or buckets, cat litter tubs, peanut butter tubs or jars, cottage cheese tubs, etc. Tubs of all sizes are recyclable. Place the lid back on if completely empty.
Jugs: Items like milk jugs, detergent jugs, cat litter jugs, juice jugs, etc. If completely empty, you may place the cap back on.
Why Don’t We Recycle by Number?
The chasing arrow symbol (or the triangle) is a code used by manufacturers to identify what resin type the plastic is made of… it DOES NOT mean the plastic is recyclable (we know, we know… you’ve learned that symbol means “recycle”… well you heard it here – it doesn’t)!
Because these numbers are not meant for the average person to try to decipher, we do not use them in our education. Like many other recycling communities, Sioux Falls, South Dakota does NOT go by the number.
The Numbers, Explained: Plastic resins #1-#7 are used to make thousands of different kinds of products. As plastic products are formed, dyes and other chemicals are added to the resin to give the final product its desired shape, color, and texture. Each of these additives impact whether the final material is recyclable or not.
Many plastic products are recyclable, but many are not. This is especially true with the abundance of plastic packaging and products and the current import bans from China. The plastics that cannot be recycled have limited markets and present haulers and processors with logistical challenges: Some materials are too light (styrofoam), too large (containers over 5 gallons), too small (loose bottle caps), or too full of chemicals (red solo cups) to be recycled in the single stream.
But It’s Plastic… Why Can’t You Just Recycle it!?!!
We get it… it’s frustrating. The amount of plastic waste our culture goes through today is INSANE. But companies like Millennium can only recycle plastics that have a demand in the marketplace and can be made into something new. These materials must have sufficient market value or fees in place to cover the costs of collection, processing, and transportation…if not, no recycling company would be in business!
This is especially true in Sioux Falls where recycling companies and waste haulers are privately owned, not funded by tax dollars like many other communities. Each community may also differ on what they recycle due to different processors and markets.
If you’re really upset, we encourage you to contact the manufacturer of the non-recyclable item directly and ask them why their product or packaging can’t be recycled in curbside collection programs. The more they hear from consumers, the more likely change will come!
Here are some common items we see that are NOT recyclable in your bin:
- Plastic toys
- To-Go containers
- Berry Containers
- Plastic Trays
- Red Solo Cups
- Plastic Forks
- Plastic Knives
- Plastic Spoons
- Plastic Straws
- Plastic Swimming Pools
- Plastic Cars
- Plastic to-go lids
- Compostable Plastics
Did we miss one you’re not sure about? Ask us! We love to hear your questions.