Painting Recycling by Numbers

I asked my mom, “Mommy, what do the numbers mean on the bottom of this water bottle.” She was drinking bottled water.  But my teacher Miss Lemon says, “when you really think about it, if everybody’s mommy drinks a bottle of water a day, that’s a lot of bottles that need to be recycled.” Miss Lemon says recycling is good, but it still uses energy, which is not so good.  So I think maybe a nice pretty glass of water, like Gran drinks would be better.  Or one of those hard ones I like to drum on that my teacher uses, but she doesn’t like me to drum on it even though it makes a good sound.

“Mama,” I said, (if she doesn’t answer to Mommy, I say Mama), “do you see these numbers on the bottom of the bottle, what is it?  Why is it a 1?  Why isn’t it 5?  Or ten? What’s the number for?  M- u – m – m – ee-e-e-e-e!”

My mom says the number means that the bottle needs to only go through one process (that means you only have to do one thing to it) to recycle.  She said that some things have bigger numbers, like 9.  So does that mean you have to do something 9 times to make some things okay again? That sounds weird.  Why don’t they just melt it, like I do with the marshmallows I’m not supposed to put in the fireplace.  So I asked Miss Lemon again.  She told me that a lot of people think the numbers are for the times it takes to recycle something, but that’s not really true.  The numbers are a secret code, well, she didn’t say they were a secret code, but I like the idea of it being secret.   So for all of you moms and dads and even teachers that don’t really know what the Recycling by Numbers is, here’s what Miss Lemon says:

1  is for PETE or PET, short for Polyethylene terephthalate

These are used for polyester fibres, thermoformed sheet, strapping and soft drinking bottles (like the one my mom has).

2  is for HDPE, short for High-density polyethylene

These are used for Bottles, grocery bags, milk jugs, recycling bins, agricultural pipe, base cups, car stops, playground equipment, and plastic lumber (plastic wood? if it’s plastic, it’s not wood. silly grown ups).

3  is for for PVC or V, short for Polyvinyl chloride

These are used for Pipe, fencing, shower curtains, lawn chairs, non-food bottles and children’s toys (like Baby Dolly, or at least her arms and legs).

4  is for LDPE, short for Low-density polyethylene

These are used for Plastic bags, 6 pack rings, various containers, dispensing bottles, wash bottles, tubing, and various molded laboratory equipment. (I asked Miss Lemon what a 6 pack ring is, she said she thought it was to hold soda cans together and that they’re not very nice for birds. Do birds drink soda?).

5  is for PP, short for Polypropylene

These are used for Auto parts, industrial fibers, food containers, and dishware.

6  is for PS, short for Polystyrene

These are used for Desk accessories, cafeteria trays, plastic utensils, toys, video cassettes and cases, clamshell containers, packaging peanuts, and insulation board and other expanded polystyrene products (e.g., Styrofoam)

7  is for OTHER or O, short for a lot of things: acrylic, fiberglass, nylon, polycarbonate, and polylactic acid (a bioplastic), and multilayer combinations of different plastics.

These are used for Bottles, plastic lumber applications, Headlight lenses, and safety shields/glasses. (More pretend wood again.  But I like the Headlight – is that a light I can put on my head? Wow. I think I need one of those).

8  is for…. oh, there isn’t a number 8.  Oh silly grown ups. You didn’t learn your numbers very well.  The number 8 comes after 7.

So these aren’t used for anything, because they forgot the number 8.

9  is for ABS, short for Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene

These are used for High-impact and chemical-resistant extruded or molded objects.  I don’t know what this means, and neither does Mommy or Miss Lemon, or Daddy, so if YOU know, please write to me.

Well, these aren’t secret codes, but I think the codes for plastic are really very complicated, so it doesn’t matter if it’s not a secret because I don’t think very many people know what any of it means.

I’m going to paint now.  Not paint by numbers, because I’m Nell, and I like to make my own paintings.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle