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Advice and answers from the ISM Waste & Recycling Team
Posted: 15th April 2021

Plastic Recycling: Plastic Resin Codes Explained (#1 - #7)

Have you ever looked at plastic products and wondered what all the different symbols mean? You'll often see a number in what looks like a recycling logo; this is known as a Plastic Resin Identification or plastic resin code.

Plastic resin codes, also known as recycling codes, are a standardised system ranging from #1 to #7 that categorises the different types of plastics based on their chemical composition. These codes help consumers identify and recycle plastics effectively, promoting environmental responsibility and waste reduction.

The world generates 381 million tonnes of plastic waste annually, all of which falls into one of these seven categories.

Resin code on a plastic container made of Polypropylene
Source: - Resin code on a plastic container made of Polypropylene

With the amount of plastic waste set to double by 2034, it's important to know which plastics can be recycled.

All of the resin codes on plastic products

Whether it is a soft drink bottle, plastic piping, styrofoam or plastic straws, all plastic products will be associated with one of these plastic resin codes.

1. PET

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)

Polyethylene terephthalate (PETE or PET) is the most commonly used thermoplastic polymer throughout the world.

Polyethylene terephthalate is a naturally transparent plastic widely used for soft drinks bottles, fibre for making clothing (polyester), and food and drinks packaging.

Some of its most important characteristics include water resistance. It's inexpensive, doesn't react with food or water, and is lightweight and easy to recycle.

PET/PETE products can be recycled.

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) Symbol

Uses of PET

  • Soft drinks bottles
  • Mouthwash bottles
  • Cooking oil bottles
  • Clothing

How to Recycle PET?

Polyethylene Terephthalate is the most widely recycled and easiest to recycle.

Most plastics in this category can go in your recycling bins at home or work.

Empty and rinse the PET containers and recycle them at home, at work or on the go. There is no need to remove the labels on bottles; this is done at the recycling facility by specialised machines.

What is PET Recycled Into?

PET plastic bottles are often turned into small plastic flakes, melted down and spun into yarn (a length of interlocking fibres).

Polyester, lycra and nylon fibres spun from PET plastic can be used to create clothing and shoes. PET/PETE plastic fibres are most commonly used for activewear and outerwear due to their durability and elastic properties.


High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)

High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) is a thermoplastic made using petroleum.

HDPE is a versatile plastic with a wide range of uses. In a lot of cases, it is a very cost-effective option for replacing metal or glass.

As one of the most versatile thermoplastics around, High-Density Polyethylene is used in a wide variety of applications, such as plastic bottles, milk jugs, butter tubs, bleach bottles, bottle caps, and piping.

HDPE products can be recycled.

High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) Symbol

Uses of HDPE

  • Milk Jugs
  • Plastic Bags
  • Butter Tubs
  • Ice Cream Tubs
  • Shampoo/Soap Bottles
  • Plastic Bottle Caps
  • Utility Pipes
  • Pens

How to Recycle HDPE?

HDPE products can be recycled. You can recycle most of them at home, at work or on the go.

However, not all types of HDPE products can be recycled at home. For example, we can't recycle thin HDPE products such as plastic bags and film from home.

Still, most supermarkets and recycling centres have plastic bag recycling points where you can drop these off.

What is HDPE Recycled Into?

HDPE is usually melted down and turned into pellets for use in new plastic products.

HDPE is made into various products, including pens, plastic lumber, plastic fencing, plastic tables, and bottles.

3. PVC

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) is the third most widely produced synthetic plastic polymer due to its wide range of applications.

It is a cost-effective and versatile thermoplastic most commonly known to be used in the building and construction industry to make door and window frames.

PVC is also found in a wide range of industrial and everyday applications, including buildings, transport, packaging, electrical and healthcare applications.

Most PVC products cannot be recycled.

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Symbol

Uses of PVC

  • Doors and Window Frames
  • Plastic Pipes
  • Plastic Wire Surrounds
  • Cling Film
  • Plastic Outdoor Furniture

Why Can't PVC be Recycled?

PVC plastic products are, in most cases, are non-recyclable.

However, with the new technologies available, it is possible to recycle some PVC products.

Still, PVC is complicated and expensive to recycle, and as a result, very little of it is collected and processed in recycling facilities.


Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE)

Like HDPE, Low-Density Polyethylene is a thermoplastic made from ethylene. However, LDPE has significantly different properties when compared to HDPE.

Low-Density Polyethene's key characteristics are its durability and flexibility. It does not release harmful chemicals, doesn't break easily, and is resistant to acids, bases, and oils. Because of these different properties, it has several other applications compared to HDPE.

LDPE is used often used in a wide range of different types of packaging and containers.

LDPR products can sometimes be recycled.

Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE) Symbol

Uses of LDPE

  • Sauce/Condiment Bottles
  • Plastic Films
  • Plastic Bags
  • Bubble Wrap
  • Plastic Tubing

How to Recycle LDPE?

Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE) is a recyclable plastic.

However, the more flexible LDPE products such as films and wraps can be more challenging to recycle. Additional complications arise as films and wraps tend to be contaminated by the items they are packaging.

The more rigid form of LDPE is easier to recycle, and it is widely recycled at home, at work or on the go.

What is LDPE Recycled Into?

The recycling process for LDPE is very similar to HDPE. LDPE plastics are melted down and turned into pellets for use in new plastic products.

Recycled LDPE is then made into plastic lumber, bin liners, plastic film and rubbish/compost bins.

5. PP

Polypropylene (PP)

Polypropylene (PP), also known as polypropene, is a tough, rigid, crystalline thermoplastic produced from propene.

Polypropylene is one of those most versatile polymers available with applications, both as a plastic and as a fibre. It is most often used in plastic products in which toughness, flexibility, lightweight, and heat resistance is required.

It's generally considered to be one of the safer plastics.

PP products can sometimes be recycled.

Polypropylene (PP) Symbol

Uses of PP

  • Medicine Bottles
  • Packaging
  • Bottle Caps
  • Straws
  • Plastic Bags

How to Recycle PP?

Polypropylene is recyclable plastic, but it's not as widely recycled as other types.

We advise that you check with your local authority or local council to check if it is recycled in your area. Alternatively, check out our A to Z recycling guide for more information.

Efforts to improve Polypropylene recycling have been ongoing.

What is PP Recycled Into?

Recycled Polypropylene has a wide range of uses and applications.

PP (Polypropylene) is recycled into clothing fibres, industrial fibres, food containers, plastic trays, and rope.

6. PS

Polystyrene (PS)

Polystyrene is a versatile plastic used to make many consumer goods.

It is rigid, brittle, relatively hard and has good electrical properties. However, the negatives of Polystyrene are that it has poor chemical and UV resistance.

In its most recognisable form, Polystyrene is made into "expanded polystyrene" used in packaging and in the building and construction industry due to its insulating properties.

PS products can sometimes be recycled.

Polystyrene (PS) Symbol

Uses of PS

  • Egg Cartons
  • Take-Away Containers
  • Disposable Plates
  • Plastic Cutlery
  • CD Cases
  • Styrofoam
  • Car Parts

How to Recycle PS?

Polystyrene is a type of plastic that is not commonly recycled.

E.g. expanded polystyrene should be put in the general waste bin.

7. Other

Other & Miscellaneous

There's no long, fancy name or technical term for this plastic because plastic with the no. 7 resin code is more of a miscellaneous category.

Items in this category are all other products that don't fit into the main six types. For example, plastics in this category can be made up of any combination of 1-6 or another, less commonly used plastic.

Other plastic products can sometimes be recycled.

Other Plastic Types Symbol

Examples of Other Plastics

  • Polycarbonate
  • Polylactide
  • Acrylic
  • Acrylonitrile Butadiene
  • Styrene
  • Fibreglass
  • Nylon

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