Dear Recyclebank: Can I recycle travel stain removers like those Tide to Go Pens? –Meeta G.
Dear Meeta: Travel stain removers play a major roll in prolonging the lifecycles of wardrobes worldwide. When Tide to Go pens first hit the market in 2005, many of our clumsy comrades rejoiced! Travel stain removers — like Tide to Go Instant Stain Remover pen, Dryel On The Go Instant Stain Remover pen, Whip-It Lil’ Bully Emergency Stain Eraser pen, and Sun & Earth On the Spot! Instant Stain Remover pen — are unlike their spray and wash counterparts because they can generally be left on clothes without threatening to leave stains of their own.
Once their magic runs out, can these pens be recycled? While a very few areas may accept stain remover pens in the curbside bin, many will not; it’s best to ask your hauler. Here are a few things to consider if you can’t get in touch with your hauler:
The first trick to recycling unusual plastic items like stain remover pens is to make sure your community recycling program accepts the type of plastic the item in question is made of. Check the packaging for the pen’s Resin Identification Code (RIC) and check whether or not that RIC is accepted by your local facility. If only part of the package is labeled with the RIC, or if the product is made of different materials — like Dryel’s On The Go Instant Stain Remover pen, whose pen is made of #5 plastic but whose scrubber is made of #7 plastic — separate the cap and applicator section from the pen body to ensure the piece is only one type of plastic, rinse it thoroughly, and then dispose of each according to your local rules.
But even communities that accept plastics #1–7 can have problems accepting stain removal pens. Tide to Go pens are made of polypropylene (RIC #5) but you wouldn’t know it by looking at the package (it isn’t listed). Unfortunately, most MRFs will only process products whose RIC is listed on the product. This means that you’ll need to get in touch with your hauler/MRF to find out if they’ll process unmarked plastics. If they do then your neighborhood is one of the lucky few.
You may also run into problems recycling stain removal pens because of their small size. Many curbside haulers will not accept small plastic objects like these pens or plastic utensils because they can fall through the cracks of the conveyor belts. Your waste hauler can specify if they accept small plastic items for recycling.
Our best suggestion is to cut out the product all together! There are many great homemade recipes for stain removers that you can try for yourself. This one, from Elle, is a replication of the Tide to Go pen. By making your own spray-on stain remover you can reuse a plastic or glass spray bottle over and over, cutting back on your use of raw materials. Start by buying a spray bottle that is either glass or a plastic labeled with a plastic RIC that’s accepted by your hauler, so that when you’re ready to get rid of it you know you’ll be able to recycle it.
SOURCES: The Free Library, Oregon Public Broadcasting