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Answering Some Commonly Asked Questions About Recycling Bottles and Jugs

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Recycling bottles and jugs is a good way to keep them out of landfills and reduce the amount of virgin material that needs to be harvested and manufactured for new containers. Recycling isn't difficult, although you should take a few minutes before you start gathering bottles and jugs to understand the process; this will ensure your items are not rejected by a recycling facility. Note a few commonly asked questions about recycling, and then be sure you call ahead before showing up at any facility, if you've never visited it before.

1. What do the symbols on the bottom of plastic items mean?

Note that the symbols and numbers on the bottom of plastic items don't tell you if the item is actually recyclable in your area, even if the container has a recycling symbol. This is because each recycling facility will have their own standards as to what materials they take. Those symbols on containers simply tell you the overall composition of the plastic; a milk jug and a water bottle, as an example, can both be recycled, but a recycling facility may take only one type of plastic and not the other. To see if certain containers are recyclable in your area, call the recycling facility first, and ask what symbols to look for.

2. Is glass or plastic better for the environment overall?

Plastic may be a more durable choice than glass, which is why it's used especially for foodstuffs, medicines, and other items that absolutely cannot be contaminated, but it doesn't break down over time and only adds to landfills when discarded. Plastic can be recycled and reused; it only needs to be melted down and then reshaped and reformed. The challenge, however, is that many people simply don't recycle their plastic items. Glass may then be better for the environment for that reason, as it will naturally degrade when tossed in a landfill, but plastic still has many advantages over glass; recycling plastic items can help reduce its disadvantages.

3. Can plastic jugs and bottles be reused?

One caution about reusing plastic containers is that they need to be properly cleaned before you use them for anything, and especially for water or foodstuffs. Plastic is not very porous so that bacteria and other contaminants may not seep into the material, but these harmful substances can still cling to the surface. If you're concerned about reusing such items, buy recycled bottles and containers so you do your part to save the environment while still ensuring your stored liquids are safe.