Does a recycle symbol mean that plastic item is recyclable?

I used to think that I could put any item marked with a recycling symbol in my curbside recycling cart and it would be recycled. Then I learned the truth about recycling: if no one wants the material, then it cannot be “recycled” into something else.

Not all items with a recycling symbol are accepted in Federal Way’s recycling system. For example, many plastic bags have recycling symbols on them but plastic bags are not accepted. Many other plastic items have a “chasing arrows” symbol with a number.

First, many people think the “chasing arrows” is a recycling symbol. It isn’t. Second, many people think the number indicates that item is recyclable. It doesn’t. Instead, the number indicates the type of plastic resin used to make the item. Since we recycle plastics by shape (bottles, tubs and cups), the number does not mean an item is recyclable.

So, what happens when the wrong stuff gets mixed with the good recyclables? Everything from your cart goes to a sorting facility, where recyclable items are sorted and shipped off to be made into new products. The unaccepted items have to be manually removed, resulting in a very long, expensive trip to the landfill.

So how can you find out what is really recyclable here in Federal Way? Just check Federal Way’s recycling guidelines at Also, feel free to contact me and ask about specific items.

How about an incentive to learn these recycling rules? Federal Way residents can sign up for the Recycle Palooza 2011 Contest for a chance to show off your recycling skills. You could win up to $1,000 for recycling right! Sign up by September 30 for your chance to win:


Jeanette Brizendine is the Solid Waste and Recycling Project Manager for the City of Federal Way. Contact: (253) 835-2771 or



We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the Oct 21
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates