Which Plastics Are Recyclable?
The plastics recycling numbers categorize the different plastics from numbers 1 to 7. Each number or plastic identification code (PIC) corresponds to a different type of plastic, each with its own properties and level of recyclability.
- #1: PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate)
- #2: HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene)
- #3: PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)
- #4: LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene)
- #5: PP (Polypropylene)
- #6: PS (Polystyrene)
- #7: Other Plastics, such as ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene), AS/SAN (Styrene Acrylonitrile) (AS/SAN), PC (Polycarbonate), PLA (Polyactic Acid).
7 Plastic Identification Codes
Each PIC number corresponds to a different type of plastic and how recyclable they are:
- Polyethylene terephthalate (PET, PETE) – Known for single-use drinks bottles. Almost always recycled at the kerbside.
- High-density polyethylene (HDPE) – Known for tough bottles, such as shampoo and detergent containers. Increasingly collected at the kerbside.
- Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) – Known for pipes, tubes, vinyl flooring. Not easily recycled.
- Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) – Known for plastic films, carrier bags, and soft plastic padding. Occasionally collected at the kerbside, but not commonly
- Polypropylene (PP) – Known for bottle caps and food containers, Increasingly collected at the kerbside.
- Polystyrene (PS) – Known for styrofoam and single-use food utensils. Not easily recycled.
- Other (often polycarbonate or ABS) – Can include many types of plastics that are often not easily recycled. Known for bioplastics, juice and sauce bottles, reusable water bottles, plastic cups and plates, and more.
In general, the lower numbers are more readily recycled and those accepted at the kerbside are the most recyclable as it’s easy for the consumer to take positive action.
For instance, PET (1) is used in single-use beverage bottles which are easily recycled and accepted by most municipal kerbside recycling schemes. This can’t be said for other types of plastic, like PS or the various types with PIC 7. These are only usually accepted by specialist recycling centers, so many consumers will put them in the garbage and they’ll be sent to landfills.
What can we learn from the PIC numbers?
Both consumers and manufacturers can learn a lot from the plastics recycling numbers. As well as guiding how recyclable they are, the PICs provide the following information about the plastic:
- Recyclability – 1,2, 4, and 5 are the most commonly recycled plastics
- Toxic chemicals – 1,3, 6, and 7 may contain harmful chemicals like BPAs and phthalates
- Likelihood of leaching chemicals – 3 is well-known for leaching phthalates
- Overall safety – 2, 4, and 5 are the safest for use in terms of chemicals and leaching
Manufacturers can also consider the above dealing with plastics and packaging because savvier consumers will have an eye on the types of plastics you’re using for packaging and may look unfavorably on less recyclable types being used.
Read more about plastics here
We’ve got a few plastics resources that you will enjoy. Hit the images to read them: