Unlucky No. 7: Why is a Simple Recycling Code So Misunderstood?

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What it really means when you see the No. 7 on the bottom of plastic items

If consumers are concerned about the type of No. 7 plastic from which an item is made, they should first check the product labeling and ask the seller more about it

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Talk about a number that can't get a break.

Poor No. 7 has been vilified in recent news stories concerning the safety of certain plastic products such as baby and water bottles. Unfortunately in some reports, the true intent of the No. 7 recycling code (or any recycling codes, for that matter) did not make it into the sound bites or final edit.

So, before you rush to add every plastic item labeled No. 7 in your home to the local landfill, here are few quick facts about what those little triangle-enclosed numbers actually mean - and what they mean to you.

The No. 7 had the sad luck to be assigned as "Other" in the world of plastic recycling when, in 1988, the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) created a simple numbering system to sort plastics for residential waste recycling.

Known as SPI Codes, the Nos. 1-7 are printed within a triangle on the bottom of most single-use and some - but not all - rigid plastic bottles, containers and assorted plastic items to aid in collecting and sorting recyclable plastics. Plastic items numbered 1-6 are often collected through residential recycling programs. Items marked No. 7 generally are not.

The No. 7 simply represents a very large, and growing, number of widely different types of "Other" plastics, many of which have been in use for decades. Most plastic household items intended for a long service life, such as popular acrylic glasses, melamine dishes and plastic cooking tools, if marked, will display No. 7.

This, too, is true for the new breed of plant-based, eco-friendly biodegradable plastics.

Items made from polycarbonate plastic, which contains the bonding ingredient Bisphenol-A (BPA), can also display No. 7. Recent news stories about polycarbonate plastic baby bottles are the basis for the latest flurry of attention on No. 7 plastics. But even this food-grade plastic has for several decades been, and continues to be, thoroughly approved for food use by major civic, scientific and independent testing authorities throughout the United States, Canada, Europe and Japan.

So, all the No. 7 really conveys is that an item does not belong in the recycling bin.

But what can a curious consumer do to find out more about plastic items that carry the No. 7, or don't have an SPI code at all?

"If consumers are concerned about the type of No. 7 plastic from which an item is made, they should first check the product labeling and ask the seller more about it," says Krista Fabregas, founder of KidSmartLiving.com and SimplySmartLiving.com, online sources for a wide variety of plastic household and foodservice items; and developer of the Recycoolâ„¢ recycling education program.

"The most common No. 7 plastics used to make durable household and kitchen goods are acrylic, styrene, acrylic blends like SAN, polycarbonate, silicone and melamine," says Fabregas, "and these names may appear on the product label or packaging."

"But that's not always the case," Fabregas admits. "So we include the type of plastic, performance expectations and care information in all of our product descriptions. That way, our customers can make the choices that are right for them."

So, don't judge No. 7 too harshly. It is time to look beyond the triangle when it comes to these "Other" plastics. This tough little number represents a widely diverse group of plastics that are relied on everyday in an endless variety of ways.

Find family-friendly home and living solutions at http://www.kidsmartliving.com. Visit http://www.simplysmartliving.com for stress-less entertaining, dining and serving ideas.

Krista Fabregas founded SmartLiving Companies in 1999 to help parents create safe, easy-care family homes with style. Today, the company brings both consumer and commercial customers a wide variety of goods, with a focus on top-quality plastic tableware, kitchenware and entertaining products. Prior to founding her company, Krista worked in the recycling and waste management industry as Communications Manager for Browning-Ferris Industries (BFI); created the Recycoolâ„¢ recycling outreach program; and worked with advanced materials developers as the Creative Director for NASA's Johnson Space Center. Krista lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and 9-year old daughter.

For interviews or appearances, please contact:
Deann Boran
SmartLiving Companies, Inc.


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