With the introduction of Tahlequah Recycling Inc., many local residents have seem to have a sense of renewed commitment as they work to help the economy by diverting garbage from a landfill.

Those who participate in recycling programs should always be aware of special requirements for the products they want to recycle, and which recycling programs take those products - especially plastics.

Plastics can be found in many forms, from the common soda bottle to trash bags, milk jugs, food wrappers and more. For these items, it’s important to understand the plastic number system marked on such containers. They range from 1 to 7, and the number will be enclosed in a triangle of arrows.

“There are many, many types of plastic, but the main recyclable ones are 1-7,” said Josh Hutchins, president of Tahlequah Recycling Inc. “In Tahlequah Recycling Inc.’s curbside collection program, we take No. 1 and No. 2.”

According to Skylar McElhaney of the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, different plastics require different processing. The result is that some plastic containers are easier to recycle than others.

“The most common plastics recycled are made of polyethylene terephthalate - PETE - and are assigned the number 1,” McElhaney said in a press release.

That category includes items such as soda and water bottles, said Hutchins, but not the caps. McElhaney said these items can be recycled into fleece, tote bags and strapping.

The No. 2 category is used for high-density polyethylene plastics, like laundry detergent containers, milk jugs, shampoo bottles, grocery bags and cereal box liners.

“Plastic labeled with No. 2 can be recycled into toys, piping, rope, and flower pots,” said McElhaney.

Other items could listed as a No. 3, like PVC pipe and some petrol containers, shower curtains or medical tubing; No. 4, like grocery or sandwich bags; and No. 5, such as yogurt cups, Tupperware, medicine bottles, ketchup or syrup bottles, and lids.

Hutchins said No. 6 includes Styrofoam items and protective foam packaging, and No. 7 includes a variety of objects, which the DEQ says are crafted from various combinations of plastics and are the most difficult to recycle.

“Removing the lids is important [when recycling plastic through TRI], because the lids are usually made from No. 5 plastic,” said Hutchins. “We ask our customers to remove lids smaller than 2 inches across. That’s a pretty good gauge of the lid being made of a different material, or if it’s a different color.”

DEQ officials are quick to encourage Oklahomans to recycle their plastic.

“Recycling provides environmental benefits that can’t be ignored,” said DEQ Director of Waste Systems Planning Fenton Rood. “Up to 90 percent of our trash has the potential to be recycled.”

Locals participating in TRI’s curbside, co-mingled recycling program are asked to rinse plastic containers to keep paper products from being contaminated, and also to prevent excess odor.

For $12 per month, TRI plans to deliver a 50-gallon recycling container and service it every week for customers. The program is in a warm-up phase now, and officials have a goal of having the highest diversion rate of waste by the end of 2010.

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