Well, in France at least (I will try to find out if it's the same for other places).

I've only just realized that most of the plastics I "recycle" are actually not recyclable.

The different types of plastics:

In France, plastic types 1 and 2 are recyclable; the rest are not.

Here is a description for types of plastics used for packaging (it's in French)

To sum it up, the only plastic packagings that are recyclable (again, I'm talking about France, I'm not sure about elsewhere) are hard density polyethelyne (HDPE) which is used for things like detergents, shampoo, cleaning products, etc and polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE) which is used for bottles like water bottles and soda bottles.

The rest-- plastic film, plastic bags, plastic cups, plastic yogurt containers, plastic containers for cookies, etc. -- IS NOT RECYCLABLE. Sad, right?  I've been "recycling" these items all this time.  Well, the fact of the matter is, these materials are just too crappy to recycle.

So what does that mean?  Try as hard as you can to use less.  Or none at all.  Because they're just going to end up in the dump.

Some good references for recycling in France:

  1. If you have an iPhone, download TRIEZ FACILE.  It's a quick guide to what's recyclable or not, and what to do for certain products (such as electronics, batteries, lamps, etc).
  2. This simplified cheat sheet explains what goes in the BAC JAUNE
  3. If you live in Paris, this website ORDURES MENAGERES, TRI by the City of Paris is great.

I will definitely write some more posts about recycling (including composting, and a review of "The Story of Stuff", a really good reference to "stuff" in general, where it comes from, how we consume it, and how it is disposed...).  There's still so much to learn!