Can all plastic be recycled?

Recycling is a huge priority for Alachua County and we have a lot of programs in place to reduce, reuse, and recycle our waste outputs. When it comes to plastic specifically, you may be familiar with the blue bin or maybe even already use it to recycle plastic bottles. Unfortunately, not all plastics can be recycled. In fact, there are many types and forms of plastics we cannot accept in our recycling program. It all starts with the numbers found on the bottom of plastic products.

What do the numbers mean on the bottom of plastics?

If you’ve ever looked at the bottom of a plastic bottle, jar or container, you may have noticed that there’s a number inside a triangle or the chasing arrow recycling symbol. These numbers – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7 – each represent a different type of plastic and its Resin Identification Code or RIC. This means that the different types of plastics contain different chemicals, which means they melt at different temperatures and ultimately react differently as they’re being reprocessed into a new item. Since they all react so differently, they must stay separated. 

But, that doesn’t always mean all plastics with that number can be recycled.

We also have to take into account the production methods of each type of plastic. #1 clamshell containers can’t be recycled in the City and County recycling programs, but #1 water and soda bottles can be recycled. Why? It’s because the clamshell containers are made by either “thermoforming” or “injection molding” and the bottles are “blow molded.” So, we also have to consider the production method of plastics because each reacts differently in the recycling process.

All recycling collected in Alachua County is sent to processing factories within the United States, not overseas. We send all the recycling that we can to factories that will accept them and use them to make new products. 

Are caps and lids recyclable?

No. Caps and lids belong in the trash because they are usually made of a different plastic type. And if too many contaminate an otherwise good group of recyclables, it can make the whole load worthless.

We also want to prevent caps and lids from becoming litter. Many times these small pieces fall off during transport and processing, which harms our environment.

Which plastics can be recycled in Alachua County?

As you’ve read, the numbers aren’t a clear cut way to determine whether something is recyclable or not. This is why here in Alachua County we tell residents to ignore the resin numbers and instead look to form and function to identify what plastics can be recycled. 

If a container is designed to hold liquid and has a pour spout such as a water, soda, or shampoo bottle or a detergent, milk or juice jug, it is most likely recyclable. Also, if it is a plastic jar, yogurt container or margarine tub, it is most likely recyclable. 

Recycle Right!

Recycling wrong creates contamination in our loads, damages equipment, puts employees at risk for injury and costs us all extra money. 

If you’re not sure whether an item is recyclable, instantly get the answers you need with Zero Waste Wizard

When in doubt, throw it out!


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    For garbage cart or recycling bin requests, please call Alachua County’s Office of Waste Collection (352-338-3233).

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