What Single Use Plastics Can Be Recycled? Recycling Misinformation: What actually goes in the blue bin and why it’s so hard to decipher recycling symbology

ecostiks plastic recycling

Confusing and inconsistent symbology on plastic can make it difficult for consumers to navigate recycling. One big area of confusion is the “resin identification code”, which is the number surrounded by the chasing arrows symbols. These numbers tend to run from 1-7 with 1-6 denoting different types of plastic, and number 7 being a sort of “catch-all” that includes any plastic not specifically categorized in the 1-6. Many consumers see the chasing arrows around the resin identification number and (reasonably) assume that the product is recyclable but that is not usually the case. 

In actuality, only plastics with resin identification number 1 or 2 are regularly recycled according to the Sierra Club in 2021. The other plastic types- despite the misleading arrow recycling symbols- are hardly ever recycled. This misleading symbology means that recycling centers get inundated with plastics that will not actually be recycled. Perhaps even more harmful though, is that consumers are misled by these symbols and given a false impression of sustainability by the plastics industry. 

Fortunately there are resources for better understanding recycling! NPR created a simple guide for recycling that can help you figure out what actually goes in the blue bin. This guide can be found at Most municipalities also will offer guides about what they accept in recycling, as recycling capabilities can differ greatly from place to place.

New California laws are also attempting to address the confusing and misleading recycling symbology. In October, Gavin Newsom signed a group of bills known as the “Circular Economy Package.” Senate Bill 343, written by democrat state senator Ben Allen, was one of the most significant parts of this legislation. Bill 343 requires CalRecycle to verify that the plastic products and packaging that bears the chasing arrows symbol will actually get recycled by California’s current recycling system. This overhaul of labeling aims to make sure that the products containing the chasing arrows symbol are actually recyclable and prevents consumers from being misled. 

EcoStiks is passionate about bringing awareness to single use plastics and how to better navigate our use and consumption.  


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