Do you know your plastics?

It’s officially Plastic Free July! For one month, thousands of people around the world will try to reduce their plastic consumption in an attempt to protect the environment from plastic pollution.


But before getting into alternatives and what we can do at our individual level, did you know that there were 7 very different types of plastic with different properties and ways of recycling? This is super important as it helps understand the scale of the issue but also our decision making process. Indeed, some of them are reusable or recyclable while other contain hazardous chemicals and can’t be recycled, meaning ideally they should be avoided at all costs!

So, ready to go? Here come the 7:

1.Polyethylene Terephthalate aka PET or PETE or Polyester


What? PET is one of the most common plastic we come across in our every day life because it is what most plastic bottles are made of.

Is it safe? Mostly but can produce carcinogens when exposed to heat. So, do not let liquid for too long in this material especially if exposed to heat (cars in summer for instance).

Can it be recycled? Most recycling programs will take it

2. High-Density Polyethylene aka HDPE

What? The big boy of plastics! It’s highly durable and thicker than the other types so it’s mostly used as juice container, shampoo or medicine bottle.

Is it safe? It is considered as one of the safest kind of plastic.

Can it be recycled? Most recycling programs will take it

3. Polyvinyl Chloride aka PVC

What? Can be found in toys, detergent bottles, medical tubing, food wraps, shower curtains and more

Is it safe? It’s sometimes referred as the poison plastic so no.. not really! It contains many toxins including BPA, lead, mercury and cadmium that it releases throughout its life that can be harmful for human health including cancer and homornal development.

Can it be recycled? It is rarely taken by recycling programs. From research, it seems that less than 1% of PVC is actually recycled. Conclusion? Better to avoid, at all cost!

4. Low-Density Polyethylene aka LDPE

What? Mostly used for light bags, plastic wraps, wire and cable.

Is it safe? Considered a safer option for food and drink use despite some studies showing it could possibly cause unhealthy hormonal effects in humans.

Can it be recycled? Unfortunately, one of the hard one to recycle! Most recycling programs will not take LDPE hence the need to reuse it as much as possible if you have some!

5. Polypropylene aka PP

What? The resistant one! Often used to make thicker products such as kitchen wear, yoghourt cups but also disposable diaper.

Is it safe? It is considered fairly safe as it can be put into the microwave.

Can it be recycled? Really depends on where you are. In some places, it’s not taken in in other places it is accepted by recycling programs.

6. Polystyrene (PS)


What? Nasty nasty. Mostly used for single use food containers, styrofoam, peanut packaging.

Is it safe? When exposed to heat, it can leach styrene and other harmful chemicals considered a s nervous system toxins.

Can it be recycled? Hardly. Most programs do not accept it and if they do it’s hardly recycled. You find so much of it on beaches around the world!

7. Other plastics

What? Everything else basically. Cart parts, cds, instant formula packaging etc.

Is it safe? Really depends on the type of plastics considered but most of the time nope. BPA for instance is included in this category and has been linked to chromes damage, hormonal issues, behavioural changes, impaired brain, diabetes etc. Plus it’s not recyclable!

Can it be recycled? Once again, it depends on what type of plastics we’re talking about as this is kind of a large category but if it’s BPA, hell no!

Moral of the story: It’s hard to remember by heart the different types and their recyclability characteristics, however what we CAN remember is that most of them leach hazardous chemicals if exposed to heat and while some of them are recyclable or reusable the current global rate of plastics recycled is around 10%….

Therefore, let’s remember that the best waste is.. the one not produced! So before considering the recyclability of a product, maybe there’s an existing plastic free alternative? Stay tuned if you wanna know more about how to reduce our dependance on plastics and save money while at it!

With love,