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What Are the Requirements for Resin Identification Codes for Polymer Blends?

November 27, 2012
Question 

Are there guidelines on the amount of other material (i.e., resins, additives, etc.) that can be in a plastic article containing a RIC code of 1-6? (For example, does a HDPE plastic bottle have to be 100% HDPE to be labeled a RIC #2?) If State laws govern this, is there a summary published somewhere?

Answer 

The Resin Identification Code (RIC) system, which was developed by The Society of the Plastics Industry, Inc. (SPI) in 1988, provides a way for recyclers and the public to identify resin content of plastic containers commonly found in the residential waste stream. The RIC system is used solely to identify the plastic resin used in a manufactured article and does not include guidelines on the amount of other materials, such as additives, that can be in a labeled article.

In 2008, SPI began work with ASTM International to develop a standard that would expand on the RIC system. The RIC system is now covered in an ASTM International standard, D7611/D7611M, "Standard Practice for Coding Plastic Manufactured Articles for Resin Identification." Additionally, ASTM International begun the process to develop standards related to new codes for specific polymers that are currently under consideration.

While there are no federal regulations requiring the use of RICs, 39 states have enacted legislation on the use of these codes. Generally, multilayer plastic containers that are predominantly composed of a single resin may be coded on the basis of the predominant resin content, provided that the other resins in the container are compatible in recycling systems for the predominant resin. For example, California legislation on the use of the RIC system (Public Resources Code, Section 18910-18016) states:

All rigid plastic bottles and rigid plastic containers sold in California on and after January 1, 1992, shall be labeled with a code which indicates the resin used to produce the rigid plastic bottle or rigid plastic container. Rigid plastic bottles or rigid plastic containers with labels and basecups of a different material shall be coded by their basic material. CA Pub. Res. Code, Sec. 18015(a).

Specific requirements on the use of RICs vary by state. We are not aware of a published summary on state legislation governing the use of these codes.