Q: Why is plastic recycling limited to certain shapes and numbers in the City of Laramie program?
A: For something to be recyclable there must be a market for the material it’s made of. Plastics with numbers 3 – 7 have a very low to no value at all, while plastics #1 and #2 are desired by many manufacturers. There are times when the value of plastics 1 and 2 are worth more than cardboard. The shapes indicate the manufacturing process that was used to create the item. As an example, let’s compare a #1 plastic bottle with a #1 clam shell or berry container. They are both made from the same type of plastic (#1, PET or polyethylene terephthalate) but are formed into their shape with different methods. The bottle is formed through blow molding and the clamshell is formed through thermoforming. This results in items made of the same material, but that have different densities and grades. If both shapes are mixed together, a processing plant has issues with different chip sizes and the clam shell melting before the bottles - causing equipment to jam. Additionally, sorting equipment has difficulty distinguishing a clam shell shape from other materials, such as paper. This issue is true all over the country and is not unique to Laramie or the Rocky Mountain region. A couple of good articles that help explain this further are:
Therefore, to keep things simplified and to send out materials that can be recycled, you only need to remember two things as you make the decision if plastic goes in the blue or black lidded cart. 1. The shape must be a jar, jug or bottle. 2. The plastic must be a number 1 or number 2.