The Philippines has been reported as one of the world’s leading plastic polluters due to our dependence on sachets and improper waste disposal. According to WWF-Philippines, the National Solid Waste Management Commission and the World Bank, private hauler companies dump around 74 percent of plastic from their collected waste into bodies of water for two reasons: cost cutting and poorly located dumps near waterways. 

Moreover, the country was also reported to have been receiving massive deposits of plastic waste from developed countries such as Canada. The volume of garbage in the Philippines is far greater than what local governments can manage—this despite Republic Act No. 9003 or the Solid Waste Management Act.

To properly dispose of plastics, we should reduce our use of single-use plastics by reusing what we can, switching to more sustainable alternatives and segregating trash. But there are different types of plastic materials present in everyday items that make its disposal more complex than the ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ mantra everyone knows. The Resin Identification Coding System codes, which are numbers inside rotating arrows typically found on lids or the bottom of plastic products, can guide us to proper plastic usage and naturally avoid health hazards.

Plastic recycling code no. 1 – PETE/PET

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE/PET) is a commonly used plastic for bottled beverages, medicine jars, combs, bags, carpets and clothing fibers. Bottles made of this type of plastic are not advised to be reused or heated since it could cause bacteria to grow and enter the body. These are usually recycled by most recycling programs—all we have to do is empty its contents and clean it up before depositing.

Plastic recycling code no. 2 – HDPE

High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) is a versatile plastic that is often recycled because its strong component is relatively resistant to impact and can withstand temperatures up to 120 °C without breaking. Everyday items that use HDPE include milk bottles, grocery bags, soap and detergent bottles and toys. Most recycling companies and programs accept HDPE but we can also recycle them ourselves—just wash them thoroughly first.

Plastic recycling code no. 3 – PVC

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), also known as “poison plastics,” are commonly used for piping and sliding. PVC can usually be found in plumbing pipes, cling firms, gutter, shoes, window frames and wire jacketing. These are rarely accepted for recycling except by plastic lumber makers due to its high toxin content. This should never be used to handle food and drinks.

Plastic recycling code no. 4 – LDPE

Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE) is a relatively safe type of plastic that tends to be both durable and flexible. Some LDPE forms include condiment bottles, grocery bags, food wraps and bread bags. Despite their durability, these are rarely accepted by recycling companies. However there have been movements that advise people to reuse them as much as possible before throwing them out. 

Plastic recycling code no. 5 – PP

Polypropylene (PP) is the “microwave-safe” type of plastic such as Tupperwares, kitchenwares, prescription bottles and takeout containers. PP contains heat-resistant components. Although it can withstand heat, it’s better to heat food in glasses or ceramics. This is now slowly being accepted for recycling by some companies.

Plastic recycling code no. 6 – PS

Polystyrene (PS), also known as Styrofoam, is one of the most commonly used plastics, but environmentalists have long flagged this material as difficult to recycle and detrimental to land and marine life since huge amounts have been disposed irresponsibly. Additionally, PS contains styrene monomer, which is a type of molecule that can transfer to food and is considered a possible human carcinogen. Recycling companies rarely accept this type of plastic and these products need to be placed in a bag before disposal since most PS can easily break into smaller pieces. Common forms of PS include disposable plates and cups, packing foams, cutlery, food boxes and egg cartons.

Plastic recycling code no. 7 – Miscellaneous plastics

The large variety of plastics that don’t fall under codes one to six are found in this category. Reuse plastics with this code with caution because we don’t know exactly what’s in them. Recycling companies and programs also rarely accept these types of plastics since they are difficult to break down unless exposed to extremely high heat. Many products with bisphenol-A and polycarbonate are included here and are reported to have negative health effects such as disrupting hormones when it infiltrates our food when heated. Some common items that fall under this category include CDs, baby bottles, water bottles with multiple-gallon capacity, medical storage containers, eyeglasses and electronics.