Eco Justice- What’s In Your Junk Drawer? by Ruth Robinson

By Ruth Robinson

I have a junk drawer.  OK, maybe there are two.  But it is mostly good junk, or at least it was at one time.  The one in the kitchen near the phone (yes, we still have a land line), well, that has important stuff, too.  Like the black address book, rubber bands, paper clips, pens, pens, pens, a pencil or three, pens.

And sometimes, OK, maybe a lot of the times, a pen just doesn’t want to do its duty.  So, I put it back, intending to clean out the drawer “later”.

Enter Mr. Costas Schuler of Forestville, CA.  He is known as The Pen Guy.  He wants the dead pens.  He has a couple of noble missions:  keep old pens out of the landfill and make art.

His most well known “art” piece is his Mercedes that is literally covered in old pens, artistically arranged.  He uses pens in wall art, too.  And it is very pricey. 

He would like my old pens, as well as yours.  My plan is to put a can out each Sunday in which you can deposit your old pens.  When we fill it up, I’ll mail it to him.  Address on his website.

Liberate those pens!  Clear out your junk drawer(s), and save the landfills. Bring useless pens to church…and we’ll keep the can out for you.



To Toss or Not to Toss…a REAL Question!

Remember when we all first started recycling?  There were newspapers tied in bundles, cans that we crushed, bottles that we washed out.  Pretty much that was it.

Then came junk mail, and other kinds of paper.  Magazines went into a pile with shiny paper.  Christmas trees were carefully put out by the first of January to go into compost.  Plastic water bottles and soda cans went into recycling, too.

Now we can also put our outdated pharmaceuticals into a zip lock bag and properly dispose of them; we can dump old hazardous waste materials, like motor oil and semi-empty cans of paint at a special recycling place.  Corks from wine bottles, yes; e-waste, yes; metal and worn out garden hoses, yes.  Paper milk containers, NO; soup in paper boxes, NO.  Meat trays from Safeway, probably yes.

What’s a concerned citizen to do?  So many choices, so many ways to do the right thing.  Anthony Knight did some research for us, and has provided an easy-to-read and very clear article on information about recycling symbols on plastic items.  Read and learn, friends:

- Ruth Robinson (ACC Eco Group)


What Do Recycling Symbols on Plastics Mean?


Your guide to figuring out what those recycling codes on plastics mean. Also see How to Avoid Phthalates and Bisphenol A in Plastics


Number 1 Plastics
PET or PETE (polyethylene terephthalate)

Found in: Soft drink, water and beer bottles; mouthwash bottles; peanut butter containers; salad dressing and vegetable oil containers; ovenable food trays.

Recycling: Picked up through most curbside recycling programs.

Recycled into: Polar fleece, fiber, tote bags, furniture, carpet, paneling, straps, (occasionally) new containers

PET plastic is the most common for single-use bottled beverages, because it is inexpensive, lightweight and easy to recycle. It poses low risk of leaching breakdown products. Recycling rates remain relatively low (around 20%), though the material is in high demand by remanufacturers.

Plastic Recycling Symbol 2

HDPE (high density polyethylene)

Number 2 Plastics

Found in: Milk jugs, juice bottles; bleach, detergent and household cleaner bottles; shampoo bottles; some trash and shopping bags; motor oil bottles; butter and yogurt tubs; cereal box liners

Recycling: Picked up through most curbside recycling programs, although some allow only those containers with necks.

Recycled into: Laundry detergent bottles, oil bottles, pens, recycling containers, floor tile, drainage pipe, lumber, benches, doghouses, picnic tables, fencing

HDPE is a versatile plastic with many uses, especially for packaging. It carries low risk of leaching and is readily recyclable into many goods.

Plastic Recycling Symbol 3

Number 3 Plastics
V (Vinyl) or PVC

Found in: Window cleaner and detergent bottles, shampoo bottles, cooking oil bottles, clear food packaging, wire jacketing, medical equipment, siding, windows, piping

Recycling: Rarely recycled; accepted by some plastic lumber makers.

Recycled into: Decks, paneling, mudflaps, roadway gutters, flooring, cables, speed bumps, mats

PVC is tough and weathers well, so it is commonly used for piping, siding and similar applications. PVC contains chlorine, so its manufacture can release highly dangerous dioxins. If you must cook with PVC, don't let the plastic touch food. Also never burn PVC, because it releases toxins.

Plastic Recycling Symbol 4

Number 4 Plastics

LDPE (low density polyethylene)


Found in: Squeezable bottles; bread, frozen food, dry cleaning and shopping bags; tote bags; clothing; furniture; carpet

Recycling: LDPE is not often recycled through curbside programs, but some communities will accept it. Plastic shopping bags can be returned to many stores for recycling.

Recycled into: Trash can liners and cans, compost bins, shipping envelopes, paneling, lumber, landscaping ties, floor tile

LDPE is a flexible plastic with many applications. Historically it has not been accepted through most American curbside recycling programs, but more and more communities are starting to accept it.

Plastic Recycling Symbols 5

Number 5 Plastics
PP (polypropylene) 

Found in: Some yogurt containers, syrup bottles, ketchup bottles, caps, straws, medicine bottles

Recycling: Number 5 plastics can be recycled through some curbside programs.

Recycled into: Signal lights, battery cables, brooms, brushes, auto battery cases, ice scrapers, landscape borders, bicycle racks, rakes, bins, pallets, trays

Polypropylene has a high melting point, and so is often chosen for containers that must accept hot liquid. It is gradually becoming more accepted by recyclers.

Plastic Recycling Symbol 6

Number 6 Plastics
PS (polystyrene) 

Found in: Disposable plates and cups, meat trays, egg cartons, carry-out containers, aspirin bottles, compact disc cases

Recycling: Number 6 plastics can be recycled through some curbside programs.

Recycled into: Insulation, light switch plates, egg cartons, vents, rulers, foam packing, carry-out containers

Polystyrene can be made into rigid or foam products -- in the latter case it is popularly known as the trademark Styrofoam. Evidence suggests polystyrene can leach potential toxins into foods. The material was long on environmentalists' hit lists for dispersing widely across the landscape, and for being notoriously difficult to recycle. Most places still don't accept it, though it is gradually gaining traction.

Plastic Recycling Symbol 7

Number 7 Plastics

Found in: Three- and five-gallon water bottles, 'bullet-proof' materials, sunglasses, DVDs, iPod and computer cases, signs and displays, certain food containers, nylon

Recycling: Number 7 plastics have traditionally not been recycled, though some curbside programs now take them.

Recycled into: Plastic lumber, custom-made products

A wide variety of plastic resins that don't fit into the previous categories are lumped into number 7. A few are even made from plants (polyactide) and are compostable. Polycarbonate is number 7, and is the hard plastic that has parents worried these days, after studies have shown it can leach potential hormone disruptors.