Definite Need for Proper Plastics Labeling… and Testing!

By | March 19, 2010

Pretty much everyone LOVES the idea of recycling the materials used to manufacture plastic containers and making ‘new’ plastic containers with the recycled resin. We look at the numeric labels/stamps on our containers and toss them into the proper recycling bins. Now off those bins go to get recycled.

The numeric codes, ranging from 1 to 7, represent different types of plastic materials and when it comes to recycling, some plastic materials simply will not place nice with others — and that can mean big trouble for companies in the recycling business.

Click Here to Learn About Plastic Identification Codes

Every type, or class, of plastic material has unique physical characteristics that make it different from other types/classes of plastic materials. As an example, if one material has a very high melting point and a second material has a very low melting point, if you blend the two materials together as solids and then try to melt the mixture one part of the blend will melt and possibly even start to degrade (fall apart on a molecular level) before the other material begins to melt.

Sound like some kind of chemistry or manufacturing nightmare to you? Try operating a PET (polyethylene) recycling company and discovering that although the consumers separated by the numbers correctly, the original container manufacturers mislabeled the containers!

WASHINGTON (March 15, 12:50 p.m. ET) — Two plastics recycling associations say that brand owners are mislabeling bottles as PET or PET-compatible, and that improperly labeled bottles are creating problems for companies that recycle PET.

Without identifying any specific companies or containers, the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers and the National Association for PET Container Resources said March 15 that their members are seeing an increasing number of bottles marked with the PET resin identification code that aren’t made just from PET, as well as bottles that are labeled as compatible with PET recycling — when those bottles actually wreak havoc with the recycling stream.

“There has been misuse of the resin identification code — significantly so,” said Dennis Sabourin, executive director of Sonoma, Calif.-based NAPCOR, in a phone interview. “It is causing problems because these mislabeled containers have significantly lower melt temperatures that will cause the recycled material to stick together inside the dryer.” ( source )

After reading all that you may find yourself asking WHY a blog about testing would waste your time with a story about the processing woes of polyethylene recyclers and what the topic has to do with testing.

Simple: Proper testing of plastics and identification of plastics at various points in the whole manufacturing, distribution, collection after use, sorting at the recycling facilities, etc. would make the recycling effort that everyone makes more effective.

Now you may find yourself asking, “Why would someone mislabel a plastic bottle? Did they do it on purpose?” Most likely, yes they did. Read below:

What’s more, the issue has intensified because of the public perception that bottles labeled with No. 7 (other) are not recyclable, he said.

“No bottle maker wants to put No. 7 on a bottle because of the inherent bad publicity No. 7s carry these days,” Cornell said. “The result has been that polyesters chemically related to PET bottle resin are being called No. 1s when they probably should not be because of adverse processing effects.” ( source )

Sad reality, but none-the-less still a very REAL reality… that some companies will intentionally deceive the public to make a few extra bucks.

But anyways, for more information on Polymer & Plastics Testing, take a look at Test-Polymers.Com and PolymerTestingLab.Com.

Then, if ya’ need to have a plastic material evaluated give the folks over at Polymathic Labs a call. From what we see on their web site,, they specialize in the identification and characterization of polymer and plastic materials.


Leave Your Comment