RECYCLING NUMBERS AND WHAT THEY MEAN
At the bottom of most recyclable plastic you can find a small number inside the three arrow triangle recycling symbol. Numbers from 1-7 are stamped in the centre of the symbol. It can be easy to miss, but this small number is pretty important if you want to recycle properly and live a little more sustainably.
This number is a resin identification code and it is a reference to what type of plastic the container is made of. The recycling numbers are a uniform way of classifying the different types of plastic and it helps recycling collectors determine what items they can accept — and which ones go in the trash.
Understanding the seven plastic codes will make it easier to choose plastics and to know which plastics to recycle. So get to know these resin codes, so you can adjust your recycling habits accordingly…
Plastic No. 1 - polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE)
It’s used for drinks bottles and some food packaging.
How to recycle it: PET or PETE can be picked up through most local recycling programs as long as it's been emptied and rinsed of any food. It’s often better to dispose of the lids in the trash (since they're usually made of a different type of plastic), but there's no need to remove bottle labels because the recycling process separates them.
Plastic No. 2 - high density polyethylene (HDPE)
It’s used for cleaning product bottles, milk jugs, butter tubs and some shopping bags. It’s a little tougher than PET, but nearly as common.
How to recycle it: HDPE can often be picked up through most recycling programs. Flimsy plastics (like grocery bags and plastic wrap) usually can't be recycled, but some stores will collect and recycle them.
Plastic No. 3 - polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
It’s used for car parts, window fittings, shampoo bottles, medical tubing
How to recycle it: PVC can rarely be recycled, but it's accepted by some plastic lumber makers. If you need to dispose of either material, ask your local waste management to see if you should put it in the trash or drop it off at a collection center.
Plastic No. 4 - low density polyethylene (LDPE)
It’s used for plastic bags and wrapping. It can also be found in squeezable condiment bottles and toys
How to recycle it: LDPE is not recycled through local recycling programs, but can often be recycled at specialist centres.
Plastic No. 5 - polypropylene (PP)
It’s used for some tubs and trays. It has a high melting point that makes it great for containing hot liquids.
How to recycle it: PP can be recycled through some local recycling programs, just don't forget to make sure there's no food left inside.
Plastic No. 6 - polystyrene (PS)
It’s used for takeaway boxes, disposable plates and cutlery. It’s a versatile plastic and can be manipulated into a soft foam, like packing peanuts, or hardened into a sturdy CD case
How to recycle it: Not easily recyclable as most recycling programs don’t accept PS in the form of rigid plastics (and many manufacturers have switched to using PET instead).
Plastic No. 7 - Other
There’s no long or fancy name for this plastic, because plastic no. 7 is more of a miscellaneous category for everything that didn’t fit into the last six slots. Often used for 3 and 5 gallon water bottles, bullet-proof materials, sunglasses, DVDs, iPod and computer cases, signs and displays, certain food containers, nylon
These other plastics are traditionally not recycled, so don't expect your local provider to accept them.
But you should double-check your local recycling guidelines on all of these plastics, because different cities and towns tend to have different rules.