Go green: Perplexed about recycling plastic?

By Jeanette Brizendine, Solid waste and recycling project manager, City of Federal Way

Is that piece of plastic recyclable?

Forget about the numbers and just use shapes.

For years, we’ve just turned the item over to check the number inside the “chasing arrows” symbol. Now we’re being told that the number doesn’t matter, but that the shape of the container does.

What’s with all the changes?

The number on a plastic container designates the type of resin used to make it. The number does not specify its recyclability.

Some items marked with the same recycling number cannot be recycled together because they are made using different processes. For example, #1 bottles and #1 cups start from the same resin, but are molded differently. This makes the cup a contaminant when recycling bottles.

So forget the number. What is the shape? In Federal Way, only bottles, jugs and dairy tubs can be recycled in your curbside container.

Jeanette Brizendine can be reached at (253) 835-2771 or Also visit

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