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7 types of plastic – learning to reduce waste

7 types of plastic – learning to reduce waste

Plastic has changed our lives. It is very difficult to avoid plastic due to its properties as cheap and durable material. Industries such as construction, packaging, medicine, automotive, aviation, entertainment, and many others are using plastic as raw material for various products. Indeed, our society today without plastic would look very different. What are 7 types of plastic and how to go about it?

Two sided sword

There is no way to avoid plastic completely and there is no need in doing that (for instance in medicine industry or automotive). Plastic properties such as soft, transparent, flexible, or biodegradable, heat and electricity resistant are irreplaceable in technology development, for instance, engineering tissues, prosthetics, 3d printing etc.

However, many plastic types contain toxic substances and are dangerous for human health and the environment. Plastic does not biodegrade and some are not recyclable. Tremendous plastic waste amounts are suffocating many cities and environmental places around the world. Addressing the issue of single-use plastic and overwhelming waste are in the focus of many governments and municipalities.

The seven types

As a conscious consumer, it is important to understand plastic types and how to deal with it. There are 7 common types of plastics. Usually, you can see it on the plastic product or package. PET, HDPE, PVC, LDPE, PP, PS, other. There are good and bad uses of each plastic-type. There are safe plastic and plastic to avoid. Here is the table where plastic types are described and evaluated.

As we see in the table, the industrial sector is producing plastic in ever growing quantities thus dealing with plastic will be an issue for many years to come.

Most of us have plastic items in our household. Using principles of Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot

  • some plastic can be refused (single-use completely and plastic packaging significantly),
  • most plastic can be reduced,
  • almost all can be reused,
  • less recycled
  • almost no plastic biodegrades (science is progressing even in this area and scientists have found bacteria that can eat some types of plastic).

Before we throw away

The way of conscious customer suggests the following steps in order to help recycle plastic and or avoid it.

  1. Get information about what type of plastic waste is collected and recycled in the region. In our municipality, all types of plastic are accepted for recycling.
  2. How waste should be separated? Sorting of the PET, HDPE and LDPE materials are most convenient in our neighborhood.
  3. To make recycling process of plastic possible and more convenient for companies it is important to empty the plastic packaging before throwing it out. Removing any nonplastic residue and components from packaging are important steps as well.
  4. Depose plastic items separately from the packaging.
  5. Avoid cosmetics and home-care products that contain microplastics (plastic debris than is less than 5 millimeters in length).
  6. What brands are using design for recycling for their products? Use their products.
  7. Buy products from recycled material.
  8. Avoid nonrecyclable products like black and opaque packaging, multi-material products.
  9. Remove excess air from plastic bottles and keep the caps attached.
  10. Packages containing toxic substances should not be recycled.

Even though the industry is using and will be using plastic for years (or forever) we as a conscious consumer can minimize household plastic and avoid single-use plastic in particular.

It is your health

If it is not possible to avoid plastic completely – do use only plastic with identification numbers 2 (HDPE) and 5 (PP). With other types of plastic: DO NOT heat it, or use in microwave stoves, or boil, or put into a washing machine. Why? All other plastic emits bisphenol A (BPA). As an artificial estrogen, it affects the development of fetuses of both sexes, slows down the development of the hormonal system, promotes breast and prostate tumors.

The largest landfill in the world

Besides health issues, there is an environmental threat. Did you know that in the middle of the Pacific Ocean there is a place called North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, the area is the oceanic desert where millions of tons of plastic trash are. It is the largest landfill in the world. Scientists estimate the size of it to be as large as the area of two states of Texas. (source: LA times).

About 10% of annually produced plastic ends up in the Oceans. Plastic does not biodegrade, some plastic photo degrades and creates small bits of plastic which are called “mermaid tears” or microplastic. It kills sea life and animals, as well as, comes back to humans by entering back into the food chain (through fish). What is more striking is that 80% of Ocean trash originates on the land which means we are those who create it.

Can we reduce?

Leave us your thoughts in the comment box.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Thank you for this very important article about helping our environment with regards to Plastics. I thought it was very informative and easy to understand. I like how you explained that we don’t need to totally do away with plastics, since there are a lot of good uses for Plastics. But it will be important to reduce the damage we do to the Earth from Plastics.

    I had always heard of reduce, reuse, recycle. But I never heard of refuse! That is a really smart idea because sometimes we can help by refusing certain Plastics altogether.

    I never knew about that garbage patch in the ocean. It is huge if it is bigger than Texas! One day someone will have to go out there and clean all that up and dispose of it in a better way. That is sad that the garbage accumulates in the ocean.

    1. The more we learn about some subject the more positive impact we can create in it. We are happy to help. 

  2. Plastic have become an integral part of our daily living and to reduce it has become rather a problem to us as humans generally. Though plastic is very hazardous and problematic for humanity, learning about the different types of plastics would help to have a better mindset towards its usage. I think the best way to reduce its use is to just look for an alternative than can serve its function but is prone to being destroyed easily than plastic. Thanks

    1. Roland, spot on. This is why organic and eco-friendly products as well as more durable and quality products are the way forward. The less single-use plastic – the better. 

  3. Hi Raivis. I agree with you that plastic doesn’t need to disappear, it just needs to be used in the right places and under the right conditions.

    Well bottled water is one place it might need to be avoided. As far as I know, most are PET bottles and they can emit bispenol A if they are heated. In the summer, these bottles must be in the fridge. I read that they should not be put above 18 C.

    This article was very helpful reading. I remember reading somewhere about bisphenol A but now I got the chance to refresh my memory. Also the information about HDPE and PP as the most recommended plastic was very helpful.

    Thanks for article. Have a nice day.

    1. George, thanks for feedback. I agree with youre reasoning that balanced approach is the key to address the issue. The bisphenol A is the thing to avoid. Some people put food in plastic into microwave and have no clue what it does to their health. Awareness helps.   

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