Confusion leads to lower plastic recycling rates, poll finds

By Jim Johnson
Senior Staff Reporter

Published: August 11, 2014 2:18 pm ET
Updated: August 11, 2014 2:22 pm ET

Image By: Wikipedia Work is under way at ASTM, the international standards group, to develop a new plastics recycling code.

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Topics Public Policy Sustainability Recycling
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When it comes to confusion about plastics recycling, there is one clear-cut reason that’s causing problems for most of the population.

People are most perplexed about what’s acceptable in plastics recycling, according to a recent online poll.

The poll showed that 65 percent of the respondents do not quite get what is acceptable and what is not when recycling their plastics, the poll showed.

The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries and Earth911 recently released results of the poll that revealed that 37 percent of the respondents found that knowing how much food contamination is acceptable to be the most confusing aspect of recycling plastic.

That was followed by 28 percent responding they were most confused by understanding what types of plastics are accepted in local municipal curbside recycling programs.

And there’s your 65 percent confused over what’s acceptable.

Another 18 percent were most perplexed by a more fundamental issue — finding where they can recycle plastics. And 17 percent were scratching their heads the most by trying to figure out the resin identification code, those sometimes hard-to-read numbers on the bottom of plastic bottles and containers and such.

Work is currently under way to change the code — commonly called the RIC — through the plastics recycling committee at ASTM, an international standards organization that took responsibility for the coding system from the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. SPI, a trade group, developed the RIC back in 1988.

The committee already has agreed to replace the chasing arrows that surround RIC numbers with a solid triangle. That’s because the code originally was designed to identify different resins to help facilitate separation and marketing of materials after use, and not specifically be an indicator of recyclability, according to SPI.

More changes could involve additional information contained in the abbreviations under the numbers to further identify variations and characteristics of the seven resin groups now identified through the coding system.

The online poll was conducted on the Earth911.com website between May 19 and July 23 and had 1,177 answering questions.

“With more and more plastic being produced, it essential that plastic products that have reached end of life enter the recycling stream,” said Robin Wiener, president of ISRI, in a statement.

“As long as confusion reigns, consumers are apt to throw plastics away that should be recycled,” she said, adding that the poll results show there is still a “strong need” for recycling education.

A total of 4.5 billion pounds of post-consumer plastics were recycled in 2011, said ISRI, the trade group that represents more than 1,600 companies recycling metals, paper, plastics, glass, rubber, electronics and textiles.

 Earth911 describes itself as a lifestyle and media company that helps consumers live a zero-waste lifestyle.


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Confusion leads to lower plastic recycling rates, poll finds

By Jim Johnson
Senior Staff Reporter

Published: August 11, 2014 2:18 pm ET
Updated: August 11, 2014 2:22 pm ET

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