The Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) has a blog called "In the Hopper" which just yesterday had a nice review of the history of the SPI recycling codes, those little symbols with the numbers 1 through 7 and the chasing arrows.
I have been baffled by in the past.
What always seems to be missing from these discussion about recycling confusion however, is any mention that all plastic recycling is local. Even here in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, two cities that share miles of a common border, there are significant differences between the cities on what can and cannot be recycled. Throw in the several dozen suburbs around the core cities and you have an even bigger patchwork of regulations. That means that if a local TV station says that everyone can recycle polystyrene food containers in their collection bins, they are adding to the confusion. And so when a national site like the Huffington Post gives out one-size-fits-all advice on recycling plastics, it only adds to the confusion.
The message that cannot be repeated enough is that all recycling is local, so check with your city/county to find out what applies to you.
While doing this will clear up the confusion about what can and cannot be recycled, it won't clear up the confusion of this older women who had her own unique interpretion of what the chasing arrows meant. I still get a laugh every time I think about that dinner.