In 1988 the Society of Plastic Industry initiated a code system that helps recognize and recycle plastic. These symbols are found on the bottom of bottles or containers and tell us about the type of plastic used to manufacture them. These are plastic codes and numbers that we need to understand for responsible recycling and reducing carbon footprint. 

Plastic Recycling Codes 

There is a triangular symbol known as a Resin Identification Code, in which codes and numbers are surrounded. We get to know the information of composition and type of plastic production.

Numbering is important because facilities use codes to sort waste during the recycling process. Curbside bins also accept plastic based on their numbers

Plastic Recycling Numbers Chart

Here is a table with plastic recycling codes 1-7 with examples and recyclability: 

recycling symbols chart and codes

1: Polyethylene Terephthalate or PET


They are not easily degraded during the recycling process, leading to their low recycling rates around 20%. This material is highly demanded by manufacturers and commonly used for single-use bottled beverages.

Examples: Bottles (beer, water, ketchup, soft drinks and mouthwash), containers (peanut butter and vegetable oil), salad dressings, personal care product packages, and liquid spray dispensers.

Recycled into: Fiber, furniture, polar fleece, carpet, tote bags, straps, paneling, food containers and bottles (If the recycled plastic meets purity standards and is free from hazardous contaminants), new containers; new bottles and textile polyester fiber.

2: High-Density Polyethylene or HDPE

HDPE: recycling numbers 1-7 chart

This type of plastic has versatile uses, especially in packaging materials. It is easily recyclable plus it has a low risk of leaching.

Examples: Bottles (shampoo, juice, detergent, bleach, other household cleaners and motor oil), bags (trash and shopping), butter and yogurt tubs, cereal box liners and milk jugs, heavy-duty trash bags, gas pipes.

Recycled into: Benches, dog houses, drainage pipes, fencing, floor tiles, laundry detergent bottles, lumber, oil bottles, pens, picnic tables, recycling containers, shampoo bottles, automotive spare parts and house furniture.

Also, check out How to Recycle Plastic Properly at Home: 10 Creative Ways

3: Polyvinyl Chloride or PVC


These durable plastics are weathering resistant, thus commonly used for siding and piping. You will find them in many packaging and products because they are preferred by manufacturers due to their low cost.

But, PVC releases highly dangerous dioxins while manufacturing because it has chlorine content. This is why we should not burn PVC because it will release those toxins.

Examples: Siding windows, piping, wire jacketing, blister packaging, plumbing pipes and cable wires, bubble wrap, playmats and children’s toys, tablecloths, and vinyl flooring in houses.

Recycled into: Hard to recycle, but there are very often recycling into garden hoses and traffic cones, cables, decks, flooring, mats, mud flaps, paneling, roadway gutters, and speed bumps.

4: Low-Density Polyethylene or LDPE


This flexible plastic has various applications. Even though initially most American recycling programs refused to accept it, now more communities are accepting it.

It is mostly similar to HDPE as you can return these bags to stores for recycling. But we should clean and dry them nicely before giving them away.

Examples: Bags (shopping, dry-cleaning, tote and Ziploc) and furniture, plastic wrap, kids’ toys, carrier bags, caps, and bottles

Recycled into: Landscaping and floor tiles, compost bins, paneling, trash can liners and cans, along with shipping envelopes. The quality of plastic is low, which is not cost-effective for recycling but rarely made into packaging films.

5: Polypropylene or PP


With a high melting point, PP is often selected for containers made for holding hot liquids. Irrespective of past opinions, PP containers are now accepted by recyclers.

Examples: Syrup and medicine bottles, caps, some yogurt containers and straws, medical products (syringes, vials), margarine tubs, woven bags, battery cases, storage bins, and kitchenware.

Recycled into: This plastic is very tough to recycle and expensive. Auto battery cases, battery cables, bicycle racks, bins, brooms, brushes, ice scrapers, landscape borders, pallets, rakes, trays and signal lights

6: PS or Polystyrene(Soli & Foam)


Popularly known as Styrofoam, these are often made into rigid foam products. However, Styrene monomer is a type of molecule that can contaminate food and is considered a carcinogen for humans.

PS containers are hard to recycle, and most places don’t even accept them in foam forms because they consider them 98% air.

Examples: Egg cartons, meat trays, disposable cups and plates, carry-out containers and CD cases. Foam plates and bowls and cups, party plates, egg meat and poultry trays, and egg cartons.

Recycled into: Carry-out containers, light switch plates, vents, egg cartons, rulers, and foam packaging. It is rarely recycled and also not cost-effective.

7: Other


These are the types of plastic that do not fit into the above-mentioned categories. It includes Bisphenol A (BPA), Polylactic Acid (PLA), and polycarbonate.

Polycarbonate is a clear hard plastic with BPA (bisphenol A) as its main building block. Studies have shown that BPA is a hormone disruptor. Another one is PLA (polylactic acid) made from plants and is carbon-neutral.

Examples: milk bottles for babies, eye lenses, CDs, DVDs, oxygenators, dialysis machines, and bulletproof glass. Clear plastic category, certain food containers, lightning fixtures, sunglasses, 3 and 5 gallon water bottles, nylon, signs and displays.

Recycled into: Custom-made products and plastic lumber. Various plastics are used during production so they are difficult to recycle.

What Does the Universal Plastic Recycling Symbol Mean?

It is also known as the Mobius loop and acts as a global symbol of recycling. It has three chasing arrows and they are:

1. First Arrow: It is about using less stuff to make less waste generation.

2. Second Arrow: This arrow shows the importance of reusing products and materials more than once. It makes them last longer, and we can use fewer new resources.

3. Third Arrow: This arrow is about recycling. It means putting things in special bins to be made into new stuff. It’s a good way to keep things out of the garbage and use them again.

The arrows in the recycle symbol go in a clockwise direction on purpose. It shows that we should always try to use less, reuse what we can, and recycle to keep things going in a cycle. This is like a continuous loop showing the whole process 

Recycling Plastic Guidelines for Safety

It may seem impractical to eliminate entire plastic usage, but we must make better disposal choices. We must know what recycling numbers on plastic mean and stick to the safety protocols:

  • 2,4 and 5 labeled plastics are suitable for recycling and considered safe.
  • Number 1 labeled plastic is also safe for recycling, but it can be recycled once. Therefore, it is recommended to avoid using this type of plastic.
  • 3,6, and 7 labeled plastics are not fit for standard recycling and also impact on the environment. Hence, it is advisable to avoid using and disposing of them.

The recycling codes and numbers chart gives us a glimpse of identifying different types of plastic. As we get to know these codes more, we can take part in responsible waste disposal techniques. For more such informative content, keep exploring our website.

Recommended: 10 Benefits of Glass Recycling


Olivia is committed to green energy and works to help ensure our planet's long-term habitability. She takes part in environmental conservation by recycling and avoiding single-use plastic.

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