Sustainability 101 - Know Your Plastics (2)

When it comes to making eco-friendly choices, it’s important to know your plastics before you can make the right decisions. In this post of the Sustainability 101 series, inspired by QNET’s dedication to sustainability, we are going to talk about plastics, it’s different kinds, and what you can do with the plastic you do have.

Types Of Plastic

While plastic labelling is not universal, some plastic bags have been labelled 1-7. You can usually see this number within the recycling green triangle symbol. Here’s what each of the numbers mean.

Plastic ONE: PET

Sustainability 101 - PET

Polyethylene Terephthalate or PET is the most common type of plastic you will come across in your day to day life. This is your single-use plastic and can accumulate a lot of bacteria, or worse, cause plastic leaching into the water you’re drinking or the food you’re eating. It is most commonly used in water bottles, straws, and food containers. When in doubt, always, ALWAYS pick the reusable option instead.

Plastic TWO: HDPE

High-Density Polyethylene or HDPE is the plastic most commonly used for household cleaning products, shampoo products, and milk jugs. They are stronger than PET bottles and can be recycled to an extent. Look for cleaning products and shampoos that you can refill rather than replace. Or better still, find a brand that takes back your old bottles when you’re done with them. Many cities now offer milk in the traditional way – glass bottles. Opt for milk in more sustainable materials rather than in tetra packs or plastic.

Plastic THREE: PVC

PVC is also called Vinyl – no, not the cool hipster kind you want to own music on. It is one of the worst plastic choices you can make. It’s extremely difficult to recycle and contains a massive amount of toxins, including carcinogens that leach easily. Commonly used as food wrap, refuse this plastic as much as possible as it should not be reused.

Plastic FOUR: LDPE

Low-Density Polyethylene or LDPE is very reusable. Unfortunately, it’s not very recyclable. This ingredient is most commonly found in trays, juice cartons, and thicker plastic bags. Again, opt for wooden trays and juice in glass bottles as they are widely reusable. Use old newspapers as bin liners for your organic waste, and old plastic bags you have lying around for your dry waste.

Plastic FIVE: PP

Polypropylene or PP is also reusable but not always recyclable. A lot of recycling non-profits and centres are beginning to accept these sorts of plastic which include yoghurt containers, medicine bottles and disposable diapers. Choose products that say recyclable instead of opting for pure plastic containers. Find a local institution that recycles your old medicine bottles. Enquire if your pharmacist will take them back.

Plastic SIX: Polystyrene

PS is Styrofoam. Not only is it difficult to recycle, it also contains some really nasty chemicals that are harmful to our health and the health of animals who may have access to this plastic. Polystyrene is used in takeaway boxes and cups. If possible, instead of ordering takeaways to the house, go to the restaurant with your own containers and get them filled instead. Many cultures used to do that earlier and there’s no harm in bringing it back into fashion.

Plastic SEVEN: Others

This is the catch-all category that includes non-recyclables and corn-based plastics. As a consumer, it’s hard to tell the difference. Most of these plastics also contain BPA. If your plastic is not easily identifiable under the top categories mentioned above, just avoid getting anything with it.

TIP: During the times when you have no other option but to go for plastic packaging, numbers two, four and five are considered safer (the safest being no plastic, of course). And numbers one, three, six and seven are the most harmful.

Stay tuned to the Sustainability 101 Series to learn more about the ways in which you can help the environment and do you little bit whenever you can.

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