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November/December 2010
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The Resin Identification Code is made up of the numerals 1 to 7, each surrounded by a “chasing arrows” symbol.

Resin Identification

The Resin Identification Code system is a means of sorting different types of plastics from household waste. Developed by the Society of the Plastics Industry in 1988, the RIC assigns a numeral from 1 to 7, with a “chasing arrows” symbol around the number, to a piece of plastic to indicate its type.

SPI recognized the importance of the involvement of the technical stakeholder community in updating and maintaining the RIC. In 2008, SPI approached ASTM about adopting the RIC system as an ASTM standard. RIC is now covered in a new ASTM International standard, D7611/D7611M, Practice for Coding Plastic Manufactured Articles for Resin Identification.

The new standard was developed by Subcommittee D20.95 on Recycled Plastics, part of ASTM International Committee D20 on Plastics.

“Since their beginnings in the mid-1800s, plastics have continued to evolve and new materials and applications have been developed to meet societal needs,” says SPI President and CEO William Carteaux. “These innovations have continued since SPI developed the original Resin Identification Code more than 20 years ago, and we fully support ASTM’s work to involve more stakeholders and develop a new standard that modernizes the code.”

Thomas Pecorini, technology fellow, Eastman Chemical Co., and a D20 member, notes that while the RIC system was originally designed to assist sorters in waste recovery facilities, it has since taken on additional uses.

“Scrap brokers use the RIC to trade materials,” says Pecorini. “Municipalities use the RICs to tell their constituents which resins are acceptable for collection.”

In addition to these uses, Pecorini notes that some states use the RIC system to charge fees for certain packaging products, and brand owners and retailers use the RIC when considering end-of-life options for packaging products.

Pecorini says that D7611 will be used by those who buy, sell and trade waste plastics that have completed their originally intended life. “It will be used by municipalities, waste collectors, scrap brokers, recyclers, brand owners, retailers and anyone else interested in understanding and directing the end of life of plastic materials.”

Now that D7611 has been published, D20.95 plans to consider the following questions for future revisions of the standard:

  • Are the chasing arrows surrounding the numbers still appropriate?
  • What are the more specific definitions that might be needed for each resin identification code?
  • What are the criteria for adding new codes?

All parties interested in contributing to these discussions regarding potential revisions to D7611 are invited to join the task group responsible for D7611, D20.95.01.

CONTACT

Technical Information: Thomas Pecorini, Eastman Chemical Co., Kingsport, Tenn.

Phone: 423-229-5917

ASTM Staff: Brynn Murphy

Phone: 610-832-9640