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Meaning Of Recycling Symbols And Numbers

If you are a good observer and careful person, you would notice there is a Arabic numeral(1-7) inside the three arrow triangle recycling symbol at the bottom of most plastic packaging containers/vessel. This number implying what type of plastic the container is made of. Each plastic is consisted of a different molecule or set of molecules. Different molecules won't mix when plastics are recycled, it is likely trying to recycle metal and paper together. For this reason they need to be separated. These numbers are a uniform way to classify different types of plastic and it simplify sorting process. But please note sometimes there are other numbers on the bottom of plastic containers, only numbers inside the recycling symbol are valid for recycling purpose.

Recycling code constitutes of the numbers 1 through 7. Sometimes below the numbers you also find the abbreviations for the plastic type (PET/PETG, HDPE, etc.). The most widely accepted plastics for recycling are number 1 and 2, also most of plastic containers are type 1 and 2. Below is a list of the numbers, full names of the plastics they refer to, and some examples of common containers made of that product.


Type of plastic: PET/PETG - Polyethylene Terephthalate

Characteristics: Clear, tough, solvent resistant plastic, often used as a fibre. 

Application: Detergent bottles, Soda bottles, water bottles, cooking oil bottles and medicine containers. 


Type of plastic: HDPE - High Density Polyethylene

Characteristics: Very common, White color or translucence 

Application: Beverage like Milk, Water and cream bottles, shampoo bottles, cleaning products. 


Type of plastic: PVC - Polyvinyl Chloride

Characteristics: Hard, rigid plastic, may be clear. 

Application: Pipes, shower curtains, clear medical tubing, vinyl dashboards and seat covers. 


Type of plastic: LDPE - Low-density Polyethylene

Characteristics: Soft, flexible plastic - waxy surface. 

Application: Squeeze bottles, Wrapping films, grocery bags and sandwich bags.

Note: Most cities accept plastics No.4 for recycling, but not grocery bags (it can be stucked in the sorting machines).


Type of plastic: PP - Polypropylene

Characteristics: Hard but still flexible plastic. 

Application: Cream Jars, lids, plastic take away containers.


Type of plastic: PS - Polystyrene 

Characteristics: Clear, glassy, rigid, brittle plastic. 

Application: Yoghurt containers and margarine/butter containers.

Plastic cups, disposable cutlery and cups (clear and colored), coffee cups, packing peanuts, Styrofoam insulation.

Note: Most cities accept plastics No.6 for recycling, but not styrofoam, peanuts, etc. ( It is contaminated by food easily). 


Type of plastic: Other

Acrylic and nylon etc 

They are made of any combination of 1-6 or another, less commonly used plastic. Biodegradable plastics, like cups made of corn, are NOT recyclable. Though they have the recycling No.7, this only means "other plastics", including non-petroleum based.

Note that soda bottles and lids should be separated before recycling, as usually bottles are No.1 and lids are No.5, and different types of plastic do not recycle together. 

The products application above are just examples, so when sorting recyclables always check the recycling number imprinted on the bottom of the plastic item. 

Choose your plastic containers please visit us at http://www.ahpackaging.com/ or send an inquiry

Ahpackaging - Guangzhou Xingyuan Plastic Manufacturer Co.,LTD Professional Cosmetic Packaging Manufacturer
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