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Guide to Recycling Plastics

We have all felt the frustrations of trying to recycle plastics. To do your part in protecting the environment, you work diligently to separate your glass, plastic, aluminum, and paper. However, when you arrive at the local recycling center, they inform you a majority of your plastic products cannot be recycled. Not only is this news disheartening, but it is a huge pain to drive your plastics back home just to throw them away.

At Charlie’s Soap, we are well aware of the challenges of recycling plastics. As an eco-minded company, we have experimented tirelessly with packaging solutions over the past few decades. In doing so, we have sought packaging that balances the need to recycle with enough durability to both transport and store soap products.

To help our customers better grasp which plastics can be recycled, we put together this brief guide.

Why is it So Hard to Recycle Plastics? 

Plastic is far more difficult to recycle than paper, aluminum, and glass. Unfortunately, because plastic is so difficult to recycle, much of it gets buried in landfills or incinerated. Neither of these options is good for the environment.

The main reason plastic is so difficult to recycle is that there are nearly endless varieties of plastics on the market today. Manufacturers combine different additives to make unique plastics, many of which are extremely difficult to classify. Even plastics classified under the same name, such as “Polyethylene Terephthalate” or “High-Density Polyethylene” often aren’t identical in their chemical makeup. Due to such variances, plastics within the same class cannot always be recycled together in a single batch.

Beyond troubles with separating and processing, another hindrance to plastic recycling has to do with market demand. Namely, most manufacturers can produce plastics cheaper from raw materials than from recycled plastics. Importantly, as long as it is not profitable to take in recycled plastics, there will be an overall shortage of recycling options.

Different Recycling Symbols on Plastics 

All plastic products and packaging sold today come with a “plastic code.” In learning these plastic codes, you can better understand which products are recyclable. With this knowledge in hand, you can make good consumer decisions that are better for the environment.

You might recognize plastic codes. They are the symbols on plastic that feature a triangle made of arrows. Contrary to popular belief, this symbol does not mean the plastic is recyclable. It simply denotes what plastic code it falls within.

Today’s plastics are labeled under seven different plastic codes – about half of which are considered recyclable. Here are the seven types of plastic:

  1. PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate)
  2. HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene)
  3. PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)
  4. LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene)
  5. PP (Polypropylene)
  6. PS (Polystyrene)
  7. Other (Various Plastics)

Each of these plastics has its own applications as well as recyclability.

Which Plastics Can I Recycle? 

Of the seven types of plastic used today, not all of them are regularly recycled. The most commonly recycled plastics include:

#1: PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate)

PET is one of the most popularly used plastics today. A majority of water and soda bottles are made with PET. While PET is reasonably easy to recycle, about 75% of this plastic still makes it into landfills or is incinerated. To find PET plastics, look for the #1 symbol.

#2: HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene)

HDPE is another widely used plastic. Labeled with a #2, this type of plastic is used to make such commonly used items as milk jugs and oil containers. HDPE is one of the most widely recycled plastics, without about 30% of products getting recycled.

#3: PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)

While PVC plastic is more commonly recycled than some other plastics, only about 1% of these materials get recycled. PVC plastics are labeled with #3 and often used in food wrap and certain toys.

Packaging Practices at Charlie’s Soap 

At Charlie’s Soap, we keep the environment at the forefront of our thoughts and business practices. Since our company was founded, we have tried several different packaging solutions for our soap products. Over the years, Charlie’s Soap has used paper bags, cloth bags, plastic containers, and plastic bags for our soaps. In switching packaging so many times, we have had to figure out which materials adequately protect our soap products while also having minimal environmental impacts.

Our soap products must be safeguarded from humidity in the air. After a good deal of careful research, Charlie’s Soap realized the only packaging that works adequately for this job is plastic. We use #2 recyclable plastic bottles for our liquid soaps. In addition, our plastic bags are made with #7 plastics, which doesn’t signify a particular type of plastic, but we are currently testing #2 plastics to switch over to in the future.

Charlie’s Soap has taken very careful steps to reduce the impact of our packaging. Not only have we reduced the size of our bags so they take up less space in landfills, but they are also durable and reusable. Finally, Charlie’s Soap has gone to great lengths at our facility to repurpose thousands of pounds of non-recyclable plastics. With this practice, we keep over 11,000 pounds of plastic out of landfills each year – helping to offset the plastic we use in bags.

If you have additional questions about plastic recycling or our product packaging at Charlie’s Soap, please Contact Us.

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