Recycle Polycarbonate Plastic

The recent move by the Canadian Government to ban Polycarbonate plastic baby bottles has stirred up a lot of concern over plastic use for food and drink. The attention also prompted some issues over the recycling of plastics.

There are seven categories of plastics, which are denoted by a number encased within a recycling symbol. The numbers range from #1 through to #7. All have different chemical composition that ultimately determines their use.

The spotlight is on plastic #7 with a PC (polycarbonate) designation beside it. In some cases, all that you will see is “PC”. #7 plastic represents the co-mingle of all the other types of plastics. The addition of PC makes for a lightweight, high-performance plastic that possesses a unique balance of toughness, dimensional stability, optical clarity, and high heat resistance. This is why we see it in so many applications including food containers and utensils.

The scary thing in a PC container is the addition of Bisphenol A (BPA), which is a key building block of polycarbonate plastic. In a food or drink application container, studies have shown the migration of BPA into the food from the container. The big controversy is of course, how much of the BPA is getting into the food and how much do we have to consume before our hormones get all disrupted?

We are not going to answer that here. But lets see how this will effect plastic recycling.

Essentially, there is no change to current plastic container recycling practices. Curbside collection and any depot will still collect #7PC plastics with no questions. The mixed plastics will be shredded up and made into new #7 plastics, some of which may have a PC designation if the manufacture adds a lot of polycarbonate to the #7 mix.

Just for information purposes, the plastics to avoid for food and drink type activities include #3, #6 and #7. The safer plastics to use are #1, #2, #4, and #5. However, there are concerns over reuse of plastic containers and the heating of plastics containing food.

Rebecca R. Ammons

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