What do those numbers on the bottom of plastic items mean?

Do You Know What Plastic Recycling Symbols Mean?

The Daily Green offers this handy guide on the various types of plastic:

Number 1 Plastics — PET or PETE (polyethylene terephthalate)

  • Found In: Soft drinks, water and beer bottles; mouthwash bottles; peanut butter containers; salad dressing and vegetable oil containers; ovenable food trays.
  • Recycling: Pick up through most curbside recycling programs.
  • Recycled Into: Polar fleece, fibre, tote bags, furniture, carpet, paneling, straps, (occasionally) new containers

It poses low risk of leaching breakdown products. Recycling rates remain relatively low (around 20 percent), though the material is in high demand by re-manufacturers.

Number 2 Plastics — HDPE (high density polyethylene)

  • Found In: Milk jugs, juice bottles; bleach, detergent and household cleaner bottles; shampoo bottles; some trash and shopping bags; motor oil bottles; butter and yogurt tubs; cereal box liners
  • Recycling: Pick up through most curbside recycling programs, although some only allow those containers with necks.
  • Recycled Into: Laundry detergent bottles, oil bottles, pens, recycling containers, floor tile, drainage pipe, lumber, benches, doghouses, picnic tables, fencing

HDPE carries low risk of leaching and is readily recyclable into many goods.

Number 3 Plastics — V (Vinyl) or PVC

  • Found In: Window cleaner and detergent bottles, shampoo bottles, cooking oil bottles, clear food packaging, wire jacketing, medical equipment, siding, windows, piping
  • Recycling: Rarely recycled; accepted by some plastic lumber makers.
  • Recycled Into: Decks, paneling, mudflaps, roadway gutters, flooring, cables, speed bumps, mats

PVC contains chlorine, so its manufacture can release highly dangerous dioxins. If you must cook with PVC, don’t let the plastic touch food. Never burn PVC, because it releases toxins.

Number 4 Plastics — LDPE (low density polyethylene)

  • Found In: Squeezable bottles; bread, frozen food, dry cleaning and shopping bags; tote bags; clothing; furniture; carpet
  • Recycling: LDPE is not often recycled through curbside programs, but some communities will accept it. Plastic shopping bags can be returned to many stores for recycling.
  • Recycled Into: Trash can liners and cans, compost bins, shipping envelopes, paneling, lumber, landscaping ties, floor tile

Historically, LDPE has not been accepted through most American curbside recycling programs, but more and more communities are starting to accept it.

Number 5 Plastics — PP (polypropylene)

  • Found In: Some yogurt containers, syrup bottles, ketchup bottles, caps, straws, medicine bottles
  • Recycling: Number 5 plastics can be recycled through some curbside programs.
  • Recycled Into: Signal lights, battery cables, brooms, brushes, auto battery cases, ice scrapers, landscape borders, bicycle racks, rakes, bins, pallets, trays

Polypropylene has a high melting point, and so is often chosen for containers that must accept hot liquid. It is gradually becoming more accepted by re-cyclers.

Number 6 Plastics — PS (polystyrene)

  • Found In: Disposable plates and cups, meat trays, egg cartons, carry-out containers, aspirin bottles, compact disc cases
  • Recycling: Number 6 plastics can be recycled through some curbside programs.
  • Recycled Into: Insulation, light switch plates, egg cartons, vents, rulers, foam packing, carry-out containers

Polystyrene can be made into rigid or foam products — in the latter case it is popularly known as the trademark Styrofoam. Evidence suggests polystyrene can leach potential toxins into foods. The material was long on environmentalists’ hit lists for dispersing widely across the landscape, and for being notoriously difficult to recycle.

Number 7 Plastics — Miscellaneous

  • Found In: Three- and five-gallon water bottles, ‘bullet-proof’ materials, sunglasses, DVDs, iPod and computer cases, signs and displays, certain food containers, nylon
  • Recycling: Number 7 plastics have traditionally not been recycled, though some curbside programs now take them.
  • Recycled Into: Plastic lumber, custom-made products

A wide variety of plastic resins that don’t fit into the previous categories are lumped into number 7. A few are even made from plants (polyactide) and are compostable. Polycarbonate is number 7, and is the hard plastic that has parents worried these days, after studies have shown it can leach potential hormone disrupters.

Source: The Daily Green March 31, 2008

8 Responses

  1. Miss Sam and I are studying this….great concise list….I just printed it off. I am actually developing my own curriculum through August. In Sept. I will be looking for a Math co-op but I may continue on with my own units of study 😉

  2. Way cool information Vic!

  3. I totally did not know they meant anything. You learn something new every day. Thanks! :o)

  4. […] mean? … Found In: Window cleaner and detergent bottles, shampoo bottles, cooking oil bottles, …http://caribooponderer.com/2008/04/20/what-do-those-numbers-on-the-bottom-of-plastic-items-mean/Recycling Plastics – How to Recycle Different Types of Plastic… explain what the different numbers […]

  5. This was very interesting. Thanks for posting it.

  6. Now you can buy food grade plastic containers ( tupperware) online . Delivery available in India only.


  8. I have 55 gal. barrel with a triangle logo and #29 above the triangle.
    It is plastic. Is it safe for water storage?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: