Most of us have probably come to recognize that plastic is an extremely difficult item to cut out of our lives. From tupperware to composite lumber, plastic has become so engrained in the modern way of life, most people do not even realize how strong their dependency is upon it. There are ways, however, to curb the impact of our plastic addiction on both the environment and our health.

The EPA’s Resin Identification Code for plastics categorizes plastic into seven numbers. The numbers are useful for consumers who can tell whether a plastic product is recyclable in their neighborhood based on the ID number. For example, #1 and #2 (PET and HDPE) are considered the “most” recyclable and can be broken down into their base form and reworked entirely. Examples of these categories are translucent milk jugs, soda bottles, and plastic bags.

Moreover, the system also shows which types are most harmful to human health. #3 (PVC) and #7 (Other) are considered particularly hazardous to health. The chemicals in plastic have the ability to leach onto food, especially when they are left in the sun or microwave. According to an article in Health magazine, #3 and #7 are often used in “cling-wrap” for meats and cheeses, and plastic baby bottles. Chemical intake can lead to lowered testosterone levels, malformation in children, and cancer. Our advice against this? Buy a refillable metal water bottle and transfer your meats and cheeses to a paper container as fast as possible.

Construction and building is the number two user of plastic products (second only to packaging). According to the EPA, only about 8 percent of plastic waste generated in 2011 was reclaimed for recycling ( This is impacted by the fact that most common plastics in construction are rarely recyclable (especially PVC piping). According to a 2000 Green Paper, only 3 percent of PVC is recycled, 17% incinerated, and 80% landfilled. These numbers have improved in recent memory, owing in part to a popular trend in Europe to recycle PVC in window-making (including Eco Brooklyn friend, Klearwall . One way around this problem is to use PEVA (non-chlorinated vinyl), which is biodegradable and does not contain the hazardous chemicals of PVC.

Christopher Jeffrey

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Posted in Build It Forward, Eco Brooklyn, Energy, Ethics, Green, Health, Recycled, salvage
2 comments on “Plastic
  1. Gennaro Brooks-Church says:

    Very good point. “It must be made out of PVC” is the lazy person’s answer.

  2. David Wichern says:

    Lots of medical stuff is made out of PVC. When it’s used, it becomes medical waste. Can’t be landfilled because there’d be germs in the leachate. So it’s incenerated. This generates all manner of nasty shit – like dioxin. This must then be scrubbed out of the smoke somehow.

    Tough problem. Some of this stuff just has to be made out of PVC, I’m told.

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