Make Plastic Recycling Easier for Yourself by Understanding What These Recycling Numbers Mean

You are one of those who are conscientious enough to use eco-bags, practice ecological waste segregation, and help the environment through recycling.

But when it comes to plastic recycling, you may be as baffled as many others about what those numbers at the center of recycling symbols mean. You are especially concerned since you have heard the warning that we should be careful about recycling plastic because we could be ingesting nanoplastics when we reuse plastic bottles for drinking or storing food.

Also, experts have been warning us that the plastic trash that ends up in the ocean comes back to us through the many species of fish and marine life that we eat.

Photo: YouTube/Australian Academy of Science

So how can we properly recycle plastic products?

First, let us understand the Resin Identification Codes. According to the American Chemistry Council, the resin codes which number from 1 up to 7 are based on the type of plastic resin used in their production. However, this code is not a universal symbol of recyclability. It will still depend on the collectors and those who recycle plastic products if they will accept them.

  • No. 1: Polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE). Due to its strength, transparency, and temperature stability, this is a popular packaging. You can put hot stuff in it and recycle it continually. PET plastic examples are water bottles, salad dressing bottles, and peanut butter jars.
  • No. 2: High Density Polyethylene (HDPE). This code is usually found on detergent bottles, milk jugs, and certain types of plastic shopping bags. HDPE is lightweight, strong, and resistant to most solvents. Due to its many uses, HDPE is almost as common as PET and highly acceptable to recycling centers.
  • Photo: YouTube/Australian Academy of Science
  • No. 3: Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC, Vinyl). This code is used in pipes, spray bottles, and shampoo bottles. The durability of PVC is extraordinary, and it is highly resistant to oil, grease, and other chemicals. PVC is also very versatile; it can be made thin and flexible or as rigid as industrial pipes. However, when it comes to recycling, PVC is not a good candidate due to its chemical composition.
  • No. 4: Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE). This plastic is known for its toughness, flexibility, and high resistance to acids, bases, and vegetable oils. You will see this code often marked on toys, ketchup bottles, and plastic wrap, which are also acceptable in most recycling centers.
  • Photo: YouTube/Australian Academy of Science
  • No. 5: Polypropylene (PP). This plastic is used for medicine bottles and containers for syrup, yogurt, and margarine. It is also tough and stress-resistant even when it is flexed. It is also microwavable due to its high melting point.
  • No. 6: Polystyrene (PS). This code is found in foam trays, cups, and packing peanuts. This plastic is highly versatile and can be made into foam material or solid plastic. But this type of plastic cannot be recycled.
  • Photo: YouTube/Australian Academy of Science
  • No. 7: Miscellaneous. This plastic is often used for custom packaging or bottles for citrus juices and is not accepted as recyclable.

Now, you have enough knowledge to decide which plastic to use, recycle, and dispose of properly. Our plastic trash must not reach the ocean where dolphins and other marine creatures mistake them for food.

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