Recycling Plastic

I hope you’re familiar with the recycling symbol that you find on pretty much all plastics these days. Numbers 1-7 are recyclable, which is good news.

The bad news is that the plastic needs to be clean! Yes, clean. No, not talking sparkling clean but clean. If you have a dishwasher, you should put the plastic items in there when you run it. If not, then you run into the dilemma of wasting drinking water on washing your recyclable plastic. Yes, I said drinking water. Remember, the water that comes out of your tap has been through quite a lot and is now drinkable (provided you live in one of the 90% municipalities with safe drinking water). That processing takes a lot of energy. So washing that peanut butter jar by hand will probably waste a lot more resources than just throwing it away. But, if you have a dishwasher, it really is the best way to save energy and water.

Some more good news, if you live in Los Angeles (city or county) polystyrene AKA Styrofoam is recyclable! So whether you’ve got a leftover Thai iced tea cup or packaging from your computer, put that polystyrene in the recycling bin. However, packing peanuts ARE NOT recyclable. But check out Loose Fill Packaging for where you can recycle them.

What about items that have plastic and electronics? Nope, the item would need to be disassembled. Electronic recycling is a whole other topic that will be written about later on.

Other items that are often overlooked that are recyclable:

  • Plastic coat hangers
  • Plastic swimming pools
  • Plastic laundry baskets
  • Dry cleaner bags
  • Plastic, non-electric toys
  • Blister packaging (when a plastic pocket is attached to a cardboard back like a pack of pens or 9 volt battery packaging)
  • Clamshell packaging (the very hard to open plastic packaging of toys, electronics, etc that opens up like – you guessed it – a clam shell)
  • Plastic planters

I recommend you looking up the exact recycling requirements for your city, but here are some quick tips when recycling PLASTIC in Los Angeles (here’s a link to a handy .pdf about what can be recycled):

  • Rinse or clean in dishwasher, if necessary, all plastic containers
    • soda, juice, milk, shampoo, detergent, mouthwash, beauty products, yogurt, cottage cheese, pill packaging,
  • Remove caps from containers.
    • Most containers do not have the same plastic for the cap. In fact, it is probably fine if you throw the cap away if it doesn’t have a recycling symbol on it. Most caps are made from mixed plastics and are no longer recyclable.
  • Put all plastic bags with a recycling symbol inside of one plastic bag to keep them from flying out of the truck or jamming up sorting equipment. You can also recycle them at most grocery stores.
    • The food residue issue applies here too. If its covered in dried on food, skip the recycling bin and throw it away. Of course, if you have a dog, you can use it to pick up its mess – after all the bag is already dirty.
  • DO NOT put any plastic hygienic item in the bin. It should be obvious, but that’s just a big No-No besides being gross.
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One comment on “Recycling Plastic
  1. Amy R. says:

    Know what happens to recycled clamshell packaging? It is sent to China to be burned instead of coal. That’s not recycling–that’s awful!

    Please consider signing this petition at

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