Have you ever wondered about those little numbers with the arrows around them, on the bottom of plastic containers? They're called resin identification codes, and they indicate the type of plastic that an item is made from. These numbers are intended to help consumers know whether and how to recycle various plastic products and packages.

In 1988 the plastics industry, through the Society of the Plastics Industry, Inc., introduced its voluntary resin identification coding system. A growing number of communities were implementing recycling programs in an effort to decrease the volume of waste subject to rising tipping fees at landfills. In some cases, test programs were driven by state-level recycling mandates.

The code system was developed to meet recyclers' needs while providing manufacturers a consistent, uniform system that could apply nationwide. Because municipal recycling programs traditionally have targeted packaging—primarily bottles and containers—the resin coding system offered a means of identifying the resin content of bottles and containers commonly found in the residential waste stream.

Recycling firms have varying standards for the plastics they accept. Some firms may require that the plastics be sorted by type and separated from other recyclables; some may specify that mixed plastics are acceptable if they are separated from other recyclables; while others may accept all material mixed together.

Recycling facilities may not be available in all areas. Check to see if recycling facilities exist in your area.

Learn more about plastics recycling.

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