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What Plastic Numbers Mean

Whenever you have a plastic item, always check for a recycling number around the item. Commonly, #1 and 2 plastics are recyclable and #4 is a store drop-off. The rest are usually not be recycled curbside.


Plastic is everywhere and while it is always encouraged to recycle plastic, not all plastic is created equal. Believe or not, there are thousands of different kinds of plastic. And of those, only 7 are recyclable. Luckily, these are also the most common types of plastics found in items however many recycling companies only accept a few of these different types. This is because the other ones are either too expensive or difficult to recycle. The 7 types of recyclable plastics are described below.

PET (#1)- Polyethylene Terephthalate

PET is one of the most common types of plastics and is found in items such as water bottles. It is used because it is water proof and safe. PET is usually a rather hard plastic as compared to film plastic. This is recyclable almost everywhere, but you should check with your recycling center just to be sure.

HDPE(#2)- High Density Polyethylene

Along with PET, HDPE is a very common plastic and has many of the similar properties as well. HDPE is found in many containers such as milk gallons, shampoo bottles, and detergent containers. Also like PET, this is also almost always recyclable, but always check to be sure.

PVC(#3)- Polyvinyl Chloride

PVC is not too common of a plastic however, as the name suggests, PVC pipes are made from this plastic. It is not too commonly recyclable, but you can call your recycling facility to be sure.

LDPE(#4)- Low Density Polyethylene

LDPE is made from the same material as HDPE however is much softer and weaker. Another name for LDPE is plastic film and this is a good way to visualize what this plastic is like. This plastic is very common being used in grocery and newspaper bags. These are generally not recycled curbside however many stores will accept plastic film and you can drop the plastic off at these locations.

PP(#5)- Polypropylene

PP is a very widespread plastic used in takeout containers and Tupperware because of its sturdiness and toughness. While PP is not recyclable curbside, it should be reused instead of being thrown in the trash.

PS(#6)- Polystyrene or Styrofoam

PS is a very porous, usually white, and easily breakable plastic leading it to be used in takeout containers and packaging. PS is not recycled curbside because it is too expensive to do. This makes it very bad for the environment and is thus widely known as the worst kind of plastic.

#7- Miscellaneous Plastics

While at the beginning we said that there are 7 kinds of recyclable plastics, there are actually more however they are very uncommon and thus are grouped into this category. These plastics include polycarbonate, acrylic, acrylonitrile butadiene, styrene, fiberglass, and nylon to name a few. Products made from these materials include CD’s and baby bottles. Contact your local recycling facility to learn what to do with these products or simply reuse if possible.