Ever wondered what those arrows, symbols, letters, and numbers at the bottom of plastic containers mean? Most of us never give a second thought to those inscriptions, but they really tell a lot about the plastic item in question. They are called plastic recycling numbers, and after you’re done reading this article, you will be able to tell what each number means and what the abbreviations stand for.

Plastic Recycling Numbers Meaning

Recycling numbers range from 1 to 7 and sometimes have certain letters written alongside them as well. These digits, also known as resin identification codes, depict the material used in the product and whether it is recyclable or not. 

Below you will find the meaning of recycling numbers 1 to 7 in detail.

1. Number 1 – PETE

plastic recycling number 1 -PETE

We usually find plastic recycling number 1 on plastic water bottles, soda bottles, cooking oil containers, peanut butter jars, and medicine containers. The abbreviation PETE stands for polyethylene terephthalate. This kind of plastic can be easily recycled. 

However, this is single-use plastic, and you should avoid using it whenever possible. Opt for reusable bottles or glass containers instead.

2. Number 2 –  HDPE

plastic recycling number 2 -HDPE

We can commonly find recycling number 2 on milk containers, detergent bottles, shampoo/conditioner bottles, water pipes, and grocery bags. The abbreviation HDPE stands for high-density polyethylene. The hard plastic bottles can be recycled easily; however plastic bags and other soft items need to be recycled through REDcycle bins.

In case you’re wondering, REDcycle bins keep flexible plastics from ending into landfills and recycle them into new products.

3. Number 3 – PVC

plastic recycling number 3 -PVC

Recycling number 3 is found on items made up of polyvinyl chloride, including plumbing pipes, shower curtains, playmats, vinyl flooring, and children’s toys. The rigid items in this plastic category can be recycled in the recycling bin, but the soft plastic items like play mats and bubble wrap can be recycled through the REDcycle system.

4. Number 4 – LDPE

plastic recycling number 4 -LDPE

LDPE stands for low-density polyethylene, and the items included in this category are grocery bags, wrapping sheets, bin liners, and all sorts of produce bags. This kind of plastic is soft and cannot be recycled in the normal way, as they tend to get caught in the recycling machine and get mixed with other materials.

Therefore, LDPE items should always be sent to a REDcycle facility for recycling purposes.

5. Number 5 – PP

plastic recycling number 5 -PP

Items with the recycling number 5 are made up of polypropylene and are rigid in nature. Ice-cream tubs, butter, and margarine containers, and soda bottle caps are included in this category and are the most commonly recycled plastics.

6. Number 6 – PS

plastic recycling number 6 -PS

Recycling number 6 is found on most single-use plastic items that are made up of polystyrene. Takeaway food containers, styrofoam cups, meat trays, and molded packaging are some examples of polystyrene plastics. 

These products are non-recyclable because they break up into further tiny pieces, and are hazardous to the environment. Also, styrofoam can be easily contaminated by food, thus polluting other recyclable material in the process.

7. Number 7 – OTHER

plastic recycling number 7 -others

Plastic recycling number 7 includes items that contain bisphenol or a combination of any other industrial chemical from number 1 to 6. It can include anything from non-recyclable styrofoam and non-petroleum-based items to easily recyclable items such as water cooler bottles. Therefore, whether these plastics can be recycled or not entirely depends on the individual products.

Importance of Plastic Recycling Numbers

To many people, the recycling numbers found at the bottom of plastic items might not hold any meaning but they are quite important when it comes to recycling.

They are a guide for the recyclers to check whether a certain item is easily recyclable or needs to be sent to a special recycling facility like REDcycle. It helps them separate the items based on the industrial chemical used in production to avoid issues like contamination and materials getting mixed up during recycling. 

But, come to think of it. If we, as consumers, decipher these recycling numbers and make sustainable choices based on them, we can contribute to a healthy and plastic-free environment. If we opt for recyclable products rather than those that may find their way into the ocean, we can reduce ocean pollution and help save precious aquatic creatures as well.

If you, like us, are worried about the Earth and its oceans and want to help protect them and spread awareness about plastic pollution, we invite you to join our cause at The Purpose for Earth Foundation

What Do We Do?

We are a non-profit organization, working our way towards creating plastic-free oceans by 2050 by partnering with other like-minded organizations. Our primary goal is to change the mindset of people to live sustainably for a cleaner and greener planet.

You can read our other blogs also, to get a clearer insight into our cause.