What Plastic Products Can I Recycle?

Plastic recycling is the process of recovering scrap or waste plastics and reprocessing the material into useful products. Compared to glass or metallic materials, plastic poses unique challenges – because of the massive number of types of plastic, they each carry a resin identification code and must be sorted before they can be recycled. This can be costly – while metals can be sorted using electromagnets, no such ‘easy sorting’ capability exists for plastics. In addition to this, while labels do not need to be removed from bottles for recycling, lids are often made from a different kind of non-recyclable plastic.

Recycling statistics on plastic:

Plastic is a versatile synthetic material and has integrated itself in human usage over the years. We wrap our food in it, store items in it, drink from it and eat off it, we have parties surrounded by plastic and even wear it; of all this plastic only 3 to 5 percent is recycled in America. Much of the rest of this plastic goes into landfills and takes 200 – 400 years to decompose.

Type 1 Plastic – Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET, PETE)
PET and PETE plastic can be recycled into carpet yarns, fiberfill, tote bags, food and drink containers, luggage and clothing.

Type 2 Plastic – High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
Examples of recycling codes for HDPE plastic are seen below. The “PE-HD” symbol is often used by plastic bag industries.

Type 3 Plastic – Vinyl or Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
Examples of PVC plastic recycling codes can be seen below.

Type 4 Plastic – Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE)
Examples of LDPE plastic recycling codes can be seen below. The “PE-LD” recycling codes are often used by plastic bag manufacturers.

Type 5 Plastic – Polypropylene (PP)
The acronym PP (Polypropylene) is used to refer to type 5 plastic. PP plastic is used extensively for packaging purposes. Given its high melting point and good chemical resistance, it is also used to contain hot-fill liquids, and molded-in automotive parts. Examples of PP plastic recycling codes can be seen below.

Type 6 Plastic – Polystyrene (PS)
Examples of PS plastic recycling codes can be seen below.

Type 7 Plastic – Others

Examples of PS plastic recycling codes can be seen below.

Are all types of plastic recyclable?

The ease of recycling the various types of plastic differs.

Given the high cost of recycling, type 3 to 7 plastics are rarely recycled.

If you wish to make a difference to the environment, you should try to send your Type 1 and 2 plastics for recycling as much as possible. You should also try to reduce your consumption of Type 3 to 7 plastics, as toxins are usually released in their production, use and disposal.