The plastics recycling numbers categorize the different plastics from numbers 1 to 7. Each number or plastic identification code (PIC) corresponds to a different type of plastic, each with its own properties and level of recyclability.
#1: PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate)
#2: HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene)
#3: PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)
#4: LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene)
#5: PP (Polypropylene)
#6: PS (Polystyrene)
#7: Other Plastics, such as ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene), AS/SAN (Styrene Acrylonitrile) (AS/SAN), PC (Polycarbonate), PLA (Polyactic Acid).
7 Plastic Identification Codes
Each PIC number corresponds to a different type of plastic and how recyclable they are:
Polyethylene terephthalate (PET, PETE) – Known for single-use drinks bottles. Almost always recycled at the kerbside.
High-density polyethylene (HDPE) – Known for tough bottles, such as shampoo and detergent containers. Increasingly collected at the kerbside.
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) – Known for pipes, tubes, vinyl flooring. Not easily recycled.
Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) – Known for plastic films, carrier bags, and soft plastic padding. Occasionally collected at the kerbside, but not commonly
Polypropylene (PP) – Known for bottle caps and food containers, Increasingly collected at the kerbside.
Polystyrene (PS) – Known for styrofoam and single-use food utensils. Not easily recycled.
Other (often polycarbonate or ABS) – Can include many types of plastics that are often not easily recycled. Known for bioplastics, juice and sauce bottles, reusable water bottles, plastic cups and plates, and more.
In general, the lower numbers are more readily recycled and those accepted at the kerbside are the most recyclable as it’s easy for the consumer to take positive action.
For instance, PET (1) is used in single-use beverage bottles which are easily recycled and accepted by most municipal kerbside recycling schemes. This can’t be said for other types of plastic, like PS or the various types with PIC 7. These are only usually accepted by specialist recycling centers, so many consumers will put them in the garbage and they’ll be sent to landfills.