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Refuse to Use: Understanding Different Plastic Types

There are seven different categories of plastic that are used to identify the chemicals it is made with. These categories are each labeled with a number between 1 and 7. Look for the number printed within the recycling symbol on the product to identify the type of plastic you are using. It is important to understand which type of plastic you are choosing, as some types of plastic have higher recycling rates than others.

This recycling label identifies a baby powder bottle as HDPE, or #2 plastic.

Plastic #1 - PET

The most popular type of plastic is number 1, Polyethylene Terephthalate, commonly known as PET. This type of plastic is used in most single-use beverage bottles and has a recycling rate of about 29%. It absorbs flavors and odors from the products it stores, which may prevent it from being recycled. Around the barn, you can find PET plastic within products such as polyester fly masks, supplement containers, blankets and filling, or boots with hook and loop closures.

Plastic #2 - HDPE

The second type of plastic is High Density Polyethylene, or HDPE, which has a recycling rate of roughly 30%. As it has a low risk of contaminating the product it stores, it can be found in the barn as containers for powdered medications. Plastic 2 is also commonly used for soap and shampoo bottles, wheelbarrows, and buckets.

Plastic #3 - PVC

Polyvinyl Chloride, or PVC, is third category of plastic. This plastic can only be recycled in highly specialized programs due to the hazardous chemicals it contains, leading to a recycling rate of less than 1%. It can be found on the farm within fencing or jumps.

Plastic #4 - LDPE

The fourth type of plastic is Low Density Polyethylene. LDPE is recognizable by its flexible and thin texture and is commonly used for shavings bags. As it can be difficult to recycle, LDPE is not accepted by most local recycling programs. Generally, large grocery stores collect these bags and send them to special facilities that can recycle them.

Plastic #5 - PP

Polypropylene, the fifth type of plastic, is used in grain bags, poultice buckets, supplement containers, and baling twine. Although it is possible to recycle this type of plastic, many recycling facilities do not have the ability to process polypropylene. Approximately 3% of PP products are recycled, although this rate continues to grow slowly.

Plastic #6 - PS

The sixth plastic, Polystyrene, is a commonly used in beverage cups, plastic utensils, and packing materials. This plastic is not collected by most curbside recycling services.

Plastic #7 - Other

The first six categories each represent a specific kind of plastic. The seventh category is “other.” This category includes a wide variety of plastics, many of which were engineered to have very specific traits. As it contains many different types, such as both compostable and non-recyclable plastics, the recycling rate for number 7 plastic varies. Nylon is a number 7 plastic and is a component of blankets, halters, cross ties, and a variety of other equine products. Pitchforks are made of Polycarbonate, a plastic that is strong yet flexible enough to withstand mucking stalls. The recycling rate for number 7 plastics vary, as it contains many different types including both compostable and non-recyclable plastic.

“Appropriate recycling facilities may not exist in your area” on a grain bag.

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