The city of Albuquerque’s recycling program can only process #1 and #2 plastics, which covers screw-top plastic bottles and jugs. That’s it for plastic. “But,” we all think to ourselves, “if it has that ‘chasing-arrow’ logo on the bottom, then they’re recyclable.” And we’re wrong.
In an enlightening Straight Dope column from January on compostable plastics (In a nutshell: “Breaking it down requires a special industrial facility that exposes the plastic to 140-degree-Fahrenheit heat for at least ten days— something you're not going to get by tossing it on your backyard pile of grass clippings.”), Cecil Adams breaks it down for us yet again:
The triangular chasing-arrows symbol with a number inside doesn't mean the product bearing it can be recycled. As I've explained before, it merely indicates what type of plastic the thing’s made from. Type 7 is miscellaneous, which can't be recycled because the materials in the mix may have different melting points and such. Plastic types 3 through 6 can theoretically be recycled but seldom are because the financial return is minimal.
A ton of food-grade plastics, like yogurt cups, are made from #5 plastic. Rather than add yours to the landfill or the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, you can take your cleaned-out containers to four Whole Foods locations in New Mexico. From there, Whole Foods ships its #5 collections to Preserve, where the plastics are reincarnated as toothbrushes and razors. (Then sold back to you through Whole Foods and other retailers. ... Ship back your spent toothbrush to Preserve, and they become a park bench.) While you’re at it, they’ll take your spent Brita water filters, too.
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