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Reducing plastic waste in the Greater Lehigh Valley

A landfill in Livermore, CA is one out of 270 across the country.
A landfill in Livermore, CA is one out of 270 across the country.
Photo: AP/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Have you ever wondered what else you could do with that empty yoghurt cup other than throw it out?  If the greater portion of the population took a second to look at the number beneath many plastic containers, a large amount of waste could be avoided. 

What numbers are you looking for

The number within the arrows tells you what type of plastic it is.  Most curbside recycling programs accept plastics from #1 to #3.  Contact your local recycling company to find out which materials they accept.  What do we do with the average yoghurt cup that happens to be a #5?  There are some recycling drop-off facilities in various neighborhoods which accept plastics all the way up to #7. 

Bethlehem has the Illick's Mill Rd. Drop-off Center.  They accept plastics 1-7, denim material, aluminum pie pans (but not foil), mixed papers, and many other materials.  Check out  the UseitagainPA website for your county's contact information and more facility locations.  If your community is looking for more business investments to boost their economy, reach out to recycling companies and request a drop-off facility near you.  It can't hurt to try.

No number/no purchase

If the plastic product has no number beneath it and you don't absolutely need it, don't buy it.  For example, too many plastic toys are made that cannot be recycled. What do we do with those toys when they break or our children no longer want them? Other than donating an unbroken but unwanted toy, there's not much that can ultimately be done except throw it out (which is exactly what will happen in most cases).  It's a powerful force, our children's' will, but is that a good enough reason to ignore the eventual waste?  Let's not forget how much fun children can have with a simple cardboard box (that can be recycled) and how many children with simple toys grew up to be inventors and scientists. 

This being said, don't give up on your child growing their computer skills or having that really cool toy that all his friends have.  You, as a consumer, have enormous power over what is made or not made.  If there is a demand for toys made with plastics 1 - 3, or occasionally 5 - 7, then there will be more toys offered that meet the need.  Look at what an impact consumers had when the lead pandemonium broke out?  Nobody wants their children to chew on lead paint or eat from plastics with BPA in them.  Who really wants their children to grow up and inherit piles of garbage that leach contaminants into their water supply? 

Purchase natural products:

If you want to reduce energy consumption and the use of non-renewable resources in the making of plastic products, then buy wooden, cotton, hemp, post-consumer recycled paper, and other renewable and sustainable products.  They are out there.  Perhaps some of them are on the pricey side, but if they go mainstream and everyone wants them, the price may come down.  One earth-friendly vendor you can check out is Hip Mountain Mama at  Their website offers more than good products but also intelligent suggestions that encourage sustainable lifestyles.  


  • buy the plastics with numbers within the arrows
  • recycle what they allow at curbside
  • find a drop-off facility nearest you to take those plastics 4 through 7
  • contact your child's favorite toy manufacturer and demand recyclable plastic or biodegradable products
  • buy products directly from earth-friendly vendors and save energy or non-renewable resources


  • Renee 5 years ago

    Whole Foods often has #5 plastic recycling drop-off containers sponsored by Preserve plastic products. The brand Preserve also has a mail-in recycling program for all of its products (plastic toothbrushes, plates, cups) if you do not have a drop-off center near you. See their website for details.

  • April 5 years ago

    That is great news and although the closest Whole Foods Market, in North Wales, is about 52 minutes south of Allentown, there are Wegmans, in Allentown and Bethlehem, that have begun the journey to more sustainable practices as a business. Perhaps a few emails from concerned customers could help sway them to also create a partnership with recyclers in the area and offer plastics drop off at their stores.

  • April 5 years ago

    Lehighton joined Allentown and Bethlehem in curbside recycling of plastics 1-7 this January! Now to get everyone checking the bottom of their containers and using the service...