Category: 
Plastics
Answer: 

The #7 recycling symbol is a 7 contained within a triangle, often made of arrows. Unfortunately, the #7 symbol gets used as a catch-all category for various plastics that are not included within categories 1 though 6. It is definitely used to label the hard, shatterproof polycarbonate plastic that contains Bisphenol A (e.g., in baby bottles, water bottles, etc.). These containers may also have the letters PC (for polycarbonate) below the triangular symbol. For other containers that are made from similarly hard, shatterproof plastic but that do not have any recycling symbol, they are very likely to be polycarbonate plastic containing Bisphenol A.

The #7 symbol is also used to label biodegradable plastics made from soy or corn. These are slightly pliable, often clear and lightweight containers. They tend to be used for packaging foods like dried fruits or nuts. On these containers, the #7 symbol may also have the letters "PLA" below it and such plastics are also often labelled as biodegradable, which is accurate. They do not contain Bisphenol A.

Finally, on some plastics, the #7 symbol may have the word "Other" below it. These may be polycarbonate (and contain Bisphenol A) and maybe not. Two common variations that probably do not contain Bisphenol A include pliable packaging used to "shrink-wrap" frozen foods and single serving containers for fruit or puddings. These single serving containers are also slightly pliable. You can call the manufacturer for such products to find out for sure. Or, choose plastics labelled with the numbers 2, 4 or 5. See the Smart Plastic Guide for more information on choosing among different plastics.

Other container options exist as well. Glass and tin cans are more easily recycled. But, many cans are also lined with a white coating containing Bisphenol A. Since this is not always the case, you can seek out brands that are simply traditional metal cans with no lining. You need to buy them first to find out or you can call the manufacturers. In the absence of adequate regulation to eliminate Bisphenol A from tin can linings, it is important for consumers to exert pressure on manufacturers to discontinue its use. The use of these plastic-based linings in cans is simply for extending shelf-life.

Answer Author: 
Kathleen Cooper, Canadian Environmental Law Association