Deciphering the Seven Plastic Identification Codes

If you’re interested in living a green lifestyle, avoid using plastics. Plastics are one of the least eco-friendly materials in both initial production and recycling. Conventional plastics often use petrochemicals derived from oil in the manufacturing process and require more processing to recycle than do glass and metal.

Each plastic product has a Plastic Identification Code — a triangle surrounding a number between 1 and 7 — usually on the bottom. Most recycling services accept plastics with codes 1 and 2, but recycling the other plastic types is hard to do because few facilities exist to process them. The following table identifies what each type is made from, what it’s used for, and its possibilities for recycling.

Try to reduce the amount of plastic you buy, and reuse what you already have, if it’s safe to do so.

Plastic Identification Codes, Uses and Reuse Possibilities
Plastic Identification Code Type of Plastic Common Products Possibilities for Recycling
1 PETE (polyethylene terephthalate) Soft drink, juice, and toiletry bottles Can be turned into T-shirt material and carpets
2 HDPE (high-density polyethylene) Milk jugs, detergent, and bleach bottles Can be turned back into detergent bottles, binders, and
3 PVC (polyvinyl chloride) Shampoo and mineral water bottles, house siding and piping Can be turned into new house siding, piping, and other building
4 LDPE (low-density polyethylene) Grocery, garbage, and bread bags Can be turned into new bags
5 PP (polypropylene) Margarine and dairy tubs Can be turned into car parts and milk crates
6 PS (polystyrene) Meat trays, coffee cups, packaging Can be turned into DVD cases and CD trays
7 Other plastics Ketchup bottles, other plastics Can be turned into park and picnic benches