What are the different types of plastics and why should you be aware of their recycling numbers ?

Let's start with a hard-hitting fact: almost 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced since the 1950s, according to UNEP. By 2050, the plastics sector might be responsible for 20% of all oil use worldwide. That's a lot of plastic, and where does all of this newly produced plastic go? Most estimates indicate that just 9% of all plastic ever produced has been recycled. The remaining 82% resides in our bodies, the ocean, landfills, and other natural sites. Only 12% of it has been burned. Interesting, isn't it?

The meaning of the recycling number, though, is more intriguing. When you open a package or item, a small sign may be seen imprinted on the plastic. It must have escaped your notice all this time, this symbol, also known as the recycling symbol, is made up of three arrows that are frequently connected by a number. Most of us have never given it much thought, despite its significance. If we have, we most likely gave it some thought when it was time to discard the item. Which was not the ideal time, right?

Let's delve deeper into the seven main categories of plastics and how they can be recycled.

So, you don’t have to worry about recycling the plastic nearby you.

Plastic Recycling number 1:

PET or PETE (Polyethylene Terephthalate)

One of the polymers that is most frequently used in consumer foodservice goods is PET. They don’t are lightweight, smooth, and unbreakable. They are only meant to be used once. Because of its clarity (nearly like glass) and ability to maintain product freshness, it is a popular material for food packaging.

Used mostly for: 

  • Cold Drink Cup
  • Soft Drink Bottles
  • Water Bottles
  • Clear Hinged Containers
  • Peanut Butter Containers
  • Salad Dressing Bottles
  • Oven-Ready Cooking Trays

End of Life Management:

Due to their recyclable nature, PETE plastics are accepted by the majority of curbside recycling programs. They need to be washed and dried before being collected. So, the story has a nice ending.

Plastic Recycling Symbol 2:

Polyethylene (HDPE)

HDPE is versatile plastic which is incredibly resilient to deterioration, long-lasting, and sturdy. It is regarded as safe & has a low risk of leaching. 

Used mostly for:

  • Milk Jugs
  • Juice Bottles
  • Cleaner Bottles
  • Trash Can Liners
  • Butter and Yogurt Containers

End of Life Management:

HDPE plastics can be recycled and, depending on the item, may be accepted by various curbside recycling programs. Before collecting, they must be cleaned and dried. 

Plastic Recycling Symbol 3: 

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

PVC is lightweight and flexible. It is frequently employed for siding and plumbing. It is cheap and just intended for one usage. Never burn PVC because it can break down into dangerous compounds like vinyl chloride.

Used mostly for:

  • Window Cleaner Bottles
  • Detergent Bottles
  • Foodservice Film Wrap
  • Cooking Oil Bottles
  • Clear Food Packaging

End of Life Management:

PVC plastics may be accepted at some recycling drop-off locations, but curbside recycling systems generally do not take them. 

Plastic Recycling Symbol 4:

Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE)

LDPE has high levels of flexibility, toughness, and light weight making it a popular plastic for use in squeezable bottles and food film. 

LDPE is regarded as safe and has no known chemical leaching.

Used mostly for:

  • Squeezable bottles
  • Bread Bags
  • Frozen Food Bags

End of Life Management:

Although certain recycling drop-off locations may take them, curbside recycling systems normally do not accept LDPE plastics. 

Plastic Recycling Symbol 5:

Polypropylene (PP)

Due to its high melting point, polypropylene is a preferred material for hot liquids. So, it's often chosen for containers that will hold hot liquid.

Used for:

  • Take Out Containers
  • Plates/Bowls
  • Cutlery
  • Syrup Bottles
  • Ketchup Bottles

End of Life Management:

Programs for curbside recycling are increasingly accepting PP plastics. Before collecting, they must be cleaned and dried. .

Plastic Recycling Symbol 6:

Polystyrene (PS)

Polystyrene is lightweight, versatile, and cheap. PS plastics are meant for single use. It contains styrene and benzene. If these chemicals are not used appropriately, they may contaminate foods and beverages. 

⚠️: it is unsafe to microwave or heat polystyrene.

Used for:

  • Disposable Plates
  • Disposable Cups
  • Meat Trays
  • Egg Cartons
  • Carry Out Containers
  • Straws

End of Life Management:

Polystyrene can be recycled, but curbside recycling programmes typically do not accept PS plastics. However, some recycling drop-off locations may accept them. 

Plastic Recycling Symbol 7:

Other (Polycarbonate, BioPlastics, ABS, Acrylic)

Number 7 plastics are a group of various plastics that did not fall into groups 1-6.

They vary in resin and chemical make-up

Used for:

  • Five Gallon Water Bottle/Jug
  • PLA Compostable Cups
  • Bulk Food Containers

End of Life Management:

Plastic resin content varies in number 7 plastics, making them challenging for curbside recycling programs to accept. Products made with the number 7 plastic can either be recycled or composted, while others are considered trash.


Which plastics are safe, and which ones should you stay away from?

Lessening our reliance on plastics and avoiding them whenever possible is always preferable. Due to the fact that plastic consumption cannot be completely eliminated, plastic recycling codes help us to distinguish between plastics that can be recycled safely and those that cannot. 

Are we discussing the most effective method for recycling plastics? Count me in.

  • Codes 3, 6, and 7 plastics cannot be recycled using conventional recycling techniques and may be harmful to human health and the environment. Avoiding them is advised. 
  • Code 1 plastics are regarded as safe for recycling, although they can only be recycled once. Always recommend staying away from this kind. 
  • Recycling plastics with Codes 2, 4, and 5 is seen to be the safest option.


We have provided the resin identification codes of all of our products below to make it easier for you to figure out what contains what.

Fun Fact: Curbside recycling services accept aluminum, which is infinitely recyclable! While ABS plastics (#7), which are used to make sheets, shower trays, automobile parts, skeletal debris, and ABS pipe, are also recyclable.

If you have any questions regarding how to recycle your PiperWai products, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.