Recycling Numbers: What They Mean and How They Affect The Way You Recycle

We’re going to unlock your memories and take you back before Earth Science classes in elementary/high school. Before we learned about the different types of clouds and the water cycle, we learned to “reduce, reuse, and recycle!” Since then, recycling is a practice that many businesses, schools, homes, etc. have implemented, but what if we told you that not all things are recycled the same or are recycled at all? What if we told you that less than 10% of recyclable plastics get recycled, even when placed in the notorious “blue bin”?

You’d probably be a bit confused, mad, and curious, right?

What’s happening to the other 90% of ‘recyclables’ that we throw into our recycling bins? Most plastic containers people purchase have the recycling symbol and a number that has been etched into the container at the time of production which is called a resin identification code. This number represents the type of plastic that was used to create the packaging.

The symbol and numbers don’t inherently mean the item is recyclable -- they’re to indicate which various types of plastics were used in creating that item and are grouped based on chemical and physical properties, functions, and characteristics. But not all curbside recycling programs actually recycle all plastics, and the key to knowing which items are accepted lies in that resin identification code. 

Turns out, figuring out how to recycle plastic packaging isn’t as easy as it sounds. But don’t get discouraged-- we’re here to give you a crash course. Learning the resin codes and recycling regulations of your community is important so that all recyclable materials can have a beneficial end of life for our planet. Let’s begin.

There are 7 resin identification codes you need to know. Let’s see what they are and what they mean.  

Resin Identification Codes

  1. PET (#1): Polyethylene Terephthalate

PET (#1): Polyethylene Terephthalate. i.e. A water bottle.

PET is the most popular type of plastic. It’s typically clear, flexible, lightweight, and strong. We commonly see this type of plastic used in plastic drinking bottles, food, and cooking oil containers and jars.

✅ PET(1) is curbside recyclable for most programs.

  1. HDPE (#2): High-Density Polyethylene

HDPE (#2): High-Density Polyethylene. i.e. a milk gallon.

HDPE is an exceptionally versatile material. Plastic jugs, cleaning product packaging, and trash bags are commonly constructed of HDPE.

HDPE (2) is curbside recyclable for most programs.

  1. PVC (#3): Polyvinyl Chloride

 PVC (#3): Polyvinyl Chloride. i.e. laundry detergent bottle.3

PVC is tough and flexible plastic. This makes it a favored material for vinyl construction. We also see plastic toys, faux leather, and … made from PVC.

PVC (3) is generally not curbside recyclable, although some facilities will accept them in-person.

  1. LDPE (#4): Low-Density Polyethylene

LDPE (#4): Low-Density Polyethylene. i.e. plastic food wrap

LDPE is another popular type of plastic. It’s tough and flexible and safe to be recycled. Grocery and produce bags, frozen food packaging, and plastic wrap is frequently composed of LDPE.

LDPE (4) is not curbside recyclable but can often be brought to your local grocery store to recycle.  

  1. PP (#5): Polypropylene

PP (#5): Polypropylene. i.e. plastic ketchup bottle.

PP plastics are favored as product packaging due to their rigid characteristics and their inability to transmit vapor, which helps to keep the products fresh. We see this type of plastic in medicine bottles, straws, personal care product packaging, food jars and containers, and cups and lids.

PP (5) is curbside recyclable for most programs. 

  1. PS (#6): Polystyrene

PS (#6): Polystyrene. i.e. plastic plate.

PS is commonly known as Styrofoam. We find Styrofoam in many forms of packaging, like meat trays, take-out containers, and egg cartons. It serves as an excellent moisture barrier.

⚠️ PS can sometimes be recycled curbside. Check with your local recycling center.

  1. Other (#7)

Other Plastics. i.e. plastics that have multiple plastics mixed together.

Any type of plastic that does not fit into the categories above is identified as #7. This can also mean the material is a mix of multiple plastic types.

⚠️ #7 plastics can sometimes be recycled. Check with your local recycling center.

I know what the codes mean… Now, what should I do?

Each city has different recycling program “rules’’ on which types of plastics and materials they can and cannot accept. It’s also common for these programs to change what they’re collecting and when they collect. Staying up to date on your city or town’s recycling program can help ensure your plastic waste is going to the best place possible. If you can’t find the information online, you can call your local recycling center and they will be able to help.


What do I do if my recycling program isn’t accepting what I have?

The alternative uses are endless when it comes to recycling, but checking in with your local recycling centers and recycling information provided by brands can help to determine your best course of action.

Remember those 3 Rs? Well, there are also lots of ways to reuse your waste! Thanks to several organizations, sustainable influencers, companies, etc. there are countless ideas for upcycling your waste and creating something new. For example, we created our Limited Edition DIY Candle Kit so customers can upcycle the jars from our deodorant into candles!

As for PiperWai...

We are currently working to add the resin identification codes to all our products. In the meantime, here’s a list of the codes for our products:

  • Natural Deodorant Cream (OWP): #5 PP
  • Underarm Oil (OWP): #4 LDPE & #5 PP
  • Lemongrass Hand Sanitizer Gel (OWP): #4 LDPE & #5 PP
  • Minty Fresh Hand Sanitizer Gel (OWP): #4 LDPE & #5 PP
  • Body Wash | Chamomile & Ginger: #41 ALU
  • Body Wash | Scentless: #41 ALU 

Fun Fact: Aluminum is accepted by curbside programs and is infinitely recyclable!

If you have any questions regarding how to recycle your PiperWai products, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. And if you haven’t already, check out our Ocean Bound Plastic packaged products.