August 6, 2014

While most people are quite familiar with the “chasing arrows” symbols found on the bottom of plastic containers, they may not truly understand the meaning behind them. Additionally, many people may not have noticed that recently these chasing arrows graphics are being replaced by solid equilateral triangles. Why the change? 

Otherwise known as the Resin Identification Code (RIC) system, the chasing arrows were developed by the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) in the early 1980’s to identify the plastic resin used in a manufactured article, not as a guarantee to customers that an item bearing a given code will be accepted for recycling in their community (thus leading to some level of frustration and confusion at the consumer level). 

According to the recent Greener Package article, "Triangle Replaces Chasing Arrows in Resin Identification Code," the move to replace the chasing arrows with equilateral triangles is the ASTM’s way to address this issue, decouple the system from the recycling message and reinforce the RIC core mission of resin identification and quality control prior to recycling. (SPI began working with ASTM, a globally recognized leader in the development and delivery of international voluntary consensus standards, in 2008.) 

This “chasing arrows” modification is core to the latest enhancements to ASTM D7611, Standard Practice for Coding Plastic Manufactured Articles for Resin Identification, in 2103. 

Another key element to this latest revision of D7611 addresses the ASTM’s ongoing efforts to address new resin types and provides codes for the six most common resin types, with a seventh category created for all other types. 

  1. Polyethylene terephthalate (PETE)
  2. High density polyethylene (HDPE)
  3. Polyvinyl chloride (V)
  4. Low density polyethylene (LDPE)
  5. Polypropylene (PP)
  6. Polystyrene (PS)
  7. Other, plastics not included in the above list including materials made with more than one resin from categories 1-6 (which generally are more challenging to recycle).

With a significant portion of medical packaging falling into the last category, even those hospitals trying to implement recycling programs face a significant challenge. 

At TEQ we believe one solution is for medical device manufacturers to move to the development of mono-polymer sterile barrier systems such as TEQethylene™, which uses a proprietary blend of High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) in combination with adhesive-coated Tyvek®, a breathable HDPE lidding material developed by Dupont™. 

According to Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council (HPRC) data, HDPE is more environmentally friendly than PETG or HIPS. And, TEQ’s new HDPE blend offers many additional benefits over conventional HDPE, such as better clarity and is back with stability study data. Plus, customers that move from using a material like PETG or HIPS to TEQethylene can save up to 40% on their thermoforming product. 

What about you? What “ASTM D7611 friendly” medical packaging recycling solutions does your business or company offer? 

Learn more about TEQethylene