Recycling Challenge: Plastics No. 3 - 7


The Issue:
Plastic that can’t go in the blue bin

The Challenge: While No. 1 and No. 2 comprise the bulk of plastic waste we generate, there’s a host of other plastics (numbered 3 through 7) that you probably encounter on a regular basis. Unfortunately, the market for those plastics is not as well-developed, so even if your local recycler accepts them, it can be a challenge to find a buyer for the processed material. That said, it’s still important to keep those plastics out of the landfill, as they can be made into a variety of products—carpet, building materials, crayons—and the market for recycled goods as raw materials continues to grow. Some forward-thinking municipalities have started collecting No. 1 through No. 7 plastics curbside, but if you’re a resident of Philadelphia, you’ll have to find a different option.

The Solution: Because No. 5 is the next most common plastic (after 1 and 2), Weaver’s Way Co-op (weaversway.coop) collects it—including Brita filters—as part of the “Gimme 5” campaign. Plastics must be clean, dry and clearly stamped with the number 5. Collections take place on the third Saturday of each month at the Co-op’s garage (524 Carpenter Lane), and all the plastics are then shipped to the Gimme 5 processing facility in New York State. The South Street Whole Foods (929 South Street) also collects No. 5 plastics.

The other numbers are trickier. The foam variety of No. 6–Polystyrene and the dreaded No. 7–Other categories are notoriously difficult to recycle. But Recycling Services, Inc. (365 Elm Street, Pottstown, 610-323-8545) takes all comers (numbers 1 through 7), and the facility is open for public collection on Tuesdays and Saturdays (9 a.m. to 1 p.m.). They charge an $8/car gate fee, so consider loading up with your neighbors’ No. 3 through 7s, too, before you head out there.

If you drink a lot of bottled beverages, you can recycle the caps at the Big Green Earth Store (934 South Street) and at Aveda stores throughout the Philadelphia region (the Shops at Liberty Place, Cherry Hill Mall, Willow Grove Park and Exton Square).

The Eco-Aware Consumer: It’s tough for even the most conscientious consumer to completely avoid No. 3 through No. 7 plastics, but you can choose to purchase products with reusable, recyclable or minimal packaging. Purchase foods like yogurt in larger containers instead of single-servings, and think twice before ordering take-out delivered in Styrofoam packaging.