What the Recycling Numbers on Plastic Mean

| October 16, 2012

recycling plastic bottles Not all recycling programs take every type of plastic. It’s important to look at the bottles and other plastic items to distinguish which type of plastic it contains.

Items made of plastic often include a number inside arrows that appear to be chasing each other. These numbers comply with a voluntary guide issued by the Society of The Plastics Industry to help people identify what to recycle, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The numbers range from 1 to 7, as follows:

No. 1

Polyethylene terephthalate: used to make items including plastic bottles for soft drinks, water, juice, beer, mouthwash, salad dressing and catsup, jars for peanut butter, jelly and jam, microwavable food trays, and trays that can be stuck into the oven.

No. 2

High-density polyethylene: used to make bottles for milk, water, juice, cosmetics, shampoo, detergent and cleaners, bags for groceries, liners in cereal boxes, and reusable shipping containers.

No. 3

Polyvinyl chloride: used in shampoo bottles, cooking oil bottles, food service items, clamshell containers, bags for bedding, shrink wrap and similar items.

No. 4

Low density polyethylene: used in grocery bags, bread bags, some produce bags, shrink wrap, margarine tubs, squeezable bottles.

No. 5

Polypropylene: used to make straws, syrup bottles, bottle caps, many yogurt containers, margarine and sour cream containers, and medicine bottles

No. 6

Polystyrene: egg cartons, hot beverage cups, food service items, including cups, plates, bowls, and takeout clamshell containers, protective foam placed over furniture, packing peanuts, and compact disc covers.

No. 7

Other or a mixture: larger reusable water bottles, some ketchup bottles, and microwavable dishes.

Plastics with the Nos. 1 and 2 are often accepted and easily recycled. No. 1 plastics often get a new life in products including the fill in carpet fibers and sleeping bags, and in food containers. Plastics identified with a No. 2 often end up in items such as plastic lumber, pipe, flower pots, recycling bins, shampoo bottles, detergent bottles and motor oil bottles.

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Category: Recycling, Services

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Central Ohio journalist with 15 years experience at daily newspapers. Freelance writer and amateur photographer. Storytellers are my heroes, poets my idols and photographers my looking glass.