Recycling Plastics - Understanding the codes!

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Thought about recycling plastic but get confused by what the numbers mean?  Don't know your polyethylene from your polypropylene?  You're not alone.


There are about 50 different groups of plastics, with hundreds of different varieties. All types of plastic are recyclable. Check with your local authority to find out how to recycle plastics in your area.  To make sorting and thus recycling easier, the American Society of Plastics Industry developed a standard marking code to help consumers identify and sort the main types of plastic. These are in the form of a number within a triangle. These types and their most common uses are:

PET - Polyethylene terephthalate - Fizzy drink bottles and oven-ready meal trays.

2  HDPE - High-density polyethylene - Bottles for milk and washing-up liquids

3  PVC - Polyvinyl chloride - Food trays, cling film, bottles for squash, mineral water and shampoo

4  LDPE - Low density polyethylene - Carrier bags and bin liners

5  PP - Polypropylene - Margarine tubs, microwaveable meal trays.

6  PS - Polystyrene - Yoghurt pots, foam meat or fish trays, hamburger boxes and egg cartons, vending cups, plastic cutlery, protective packaging for electronic goods and toys.

7  OTHER - Any other plastics that do not fall into any of the above categories. - An example is melamine, which is often used in plastic plates and cups.


What can you do?

  • Ask your local authority which plastics can be recycled in your area
  • Buy products that are refillable, some eco-friendly shops will even refill your cleaning fluid bottles for you
  • Buy products with minimal packaging
  • Reuse carrier bags
  • Reuse drinks bottles (but make sure they are properly cleaned first)
  • Reuse jiffy bags, bubble wrap, brown paper, envelopes
  • Encourage your local authority to provide recycling facilities for all types of plastic
  • Buy recycled to encourage further recycling!
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