Recycling Plastics - Good Luck

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Photo by Brian Yurasits on Unsplash
By Sarah Phillips

Recycling plastics is confusing.

Have you ever stood next to a recycling bin at a home or at a restaurant and wondered?
  • Where do I put this?
  • Why don’t they put pictures of what they actually serve?
  • Where do I put the lid of my coffee?
  • Is this cup plastic lined?
  • Does this get recycled, or does it go in the trash?
  • Can I recycle different things at home than in a restaurant or the supermarket?

Some plastic can’t be recycled at large commercial recyclers like Republic.

Plastic wrap can’t be recycled in our commercial recycling. It is thin and light and gets wrapped around the machinery and stops the process. 

The same thing can happen with small plastics like caps, bread clip sealers — they clog the machinery and can shut down the recycling line.

Plastic bags are lightweight, and they can also clog machinery and float around the recycling facility, so many commercial recyclers do not take plastic bags. The brochure from Republic says “No Plastic Bags.” Plastic bags are collected and recycled at Albertsons, Safeway and other grocery stores. Again, a good alternative is to bring your own reusable bags for both produce and general bagging.

Some plastics are difficult to recycle

Think of a spray bottle. The spray tip is colored red, the trigger is white and contains a metal spring, it has a shrink wrap covering over a plastic container. The symbol on the bottom says recycle HDPE 2, but which part is recyclable? Do I remove the shrink wrap? Remove the spray nozzle? And what does the S inside a circle and A16 mean?

What is easiest to recycle

Drink containers are the easiest to recycle. Drink manufactures are touting the recyclable nature of their bottles. However, the national recycle rate is about 30%. Water bottles are also the easiest to replace with refillable, reusable bottles.

Here is a general rule: Look at the numbers on the bottom of the plastics. Look for #1 and 2. These are the easiest to recycle. Try and avoid 3-7. The higher the number the more difficult it is to recycle.

Plastics are made from fossil oil and gas. Each item may be a unique formulation. The plastic may be made of different amounts and types of plastics. One container can have materials made with different additives and different coloring for each part. 

Plastics can leach into foods, the groundwater, streams and the oceans, and even the air.

What are alternatives?

Ridwell is a subscription recycling company that does collect and recycle single use plastics and plastic bags. The single use plastics is sold to Trex to make plastic boards. 

Ridwell collects plastics, light bulbs and cloth every time they make a collection. Every collection has a special one time item as well, like rubber bands, medicine bottles, electronic cords.

Plastics are everywhere. Plastic free July is a chance to examine your use of plastics. This month focus on the Reduce part of “reduce, reuse, recycle.” Try to replace at least one item.


Anonymous,  July 28, 2022 at 11:32 AM  


Amazon should eliminate all plastic packing materials and envelopes.

Anonymous,  July 28, 2022 at 12:14 PM  

Shoreline residents can also recycle plastic film (grocery bags, packaging, etc.) at the transfer station for free. "Accepts all plastic film, wrap, and bags including bubble wrap, plastic grocery bags, and plastic wrap from beverage cases, toilet paper, paper napkins and towels. No biodegradable or compostable bags." More information here:

Anonymous,  July 29, 2022 at 1:47 AM  

Ridwell also picks up batteries every time.

Anonymous,  August 2, 2022 at 9:54 PM  

Batteries can be recycled at no cost at city hall; rechargeable ones at the recology store.

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