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Recycling pesky plastics

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Plastic can be recycled, but for many types of plastics, not around Evansville.

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To simplify the recycling process, Indiana requires all plastic bottles with a capacity of at least 16 fluid ounces and all rigid plastic containers with a capacity of at least 8 fluid ounces to be stamped with a special symbol. The symbol consists of a number inside a triangle and letters underneath that indicate the primary resin from which the container is made, as follows:

  • #1 and 'PETE' for polyethylene terephthalate.
  • #2 and 'HDPE' for high density polyethylene.
  • #3 and 'V' for vinyl.
  • #4 and 'LDPE' for low density polyethylene.
  • #5 and 'PP' for polypropylene.
  • #6 and 'PS' for polystyrene.
  • #7 and 'Other' for other materials, including multi-layer materials.

Stamping a number on a container, however, does not mean that a company exists to do the recycling.

The Laubscher Meadows Landfill in Vanderburgh County and the curbside recycling program in Evansville accommodate only #1 PETE and #2 HDPE plastics. These include milk jugs, soft drink bottles, liquid laundry soap bottles, and colored plastic containers like those used for fabric softener, shampoo, detergent, and bleach. The Vanderburgh County Solid Waste District is equally restrictive on its drop-off recycling days. Only three plastic-recycling companies are listed on the Vanderburgh County Solid Waste District website---Allied Waste, Tri-State Resource Recovery, and Veolia---and all three restrict their recycling to #1 and #2 plastics.

One Evansville-based plastics manufacturer, Lucent Polymers, has developed a nationwide program for recycling certain post-consumer, #5 polypropylene plastics. Polypropylene can withstand high temperatures without melting, is strong and durable, and does not readily react with other chemicals so it is often used for reusable plastic products, such as microwaveable storage containers, bottle caps, rigid cups, syrup bottles, ketchup bottles, and medicine bottles. About 700 million pounds of bottle caps are thrown away in landfills every year.

The Caps-n-Cups recycling program at Lucent Polymer includes all plastic bottle caps as well as rigid plastic cups that are marked with the #5. Most plastic caps are not marked, but as long as any metal liners are removed, the caps will be accepted. All items must be rinsed clean.

There are three ways to participate in the Caps-n-Cups recycling program:

  1. Mail the items, postage prepaid, to: Caps-n-Cups, 1700 Lynch Rd, Evansville, IN 47710.
  2. For large collections (full semi-trailers), contact Lucent Polymers to make special arrangements. The Caps-n-Cups program will pay a per-pound rate for the amount collected. The program may also provide the container and pay the trucking expenses to haul the materials to the company recycling site.
  3. Collect the items in plastic bags and take them to the front office of Lucent Polymers on 1700 Lynch Road in Evansville between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays. If you have a sizeable load or a large number of bags to deliver, you should contact the company in advance to make suitable arrangements.

For more information about the program and contact information for Lucent Polymers, see the Caps-n-Cups website.

Prescription bottles are typically made of #5 plastic, but they are not accepted by the Caps-n-Cups program (except for the caps). Your veterinarian may welcome your used pill bottles with the caps, though, for filling pet prescriptions.

If you would like to learn more about businesses that recycle products in Indiana and across the country, a good place to start your search is Earth911.com which lists recycling centers based on zip codes.

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