7 Ways to Read (and Understand) Plastic Recycling Codes

7 Ways to Read (and Understand) Plastic Recycling


Do you know what recycling codes are? You might see recycling codes on products you buy, but do you know what they mean? Recycling codes can be confusing. Many people don’t know what the different plastic recycling numbers mean and what types of plastics they represent.


Recycling codes are a way to identify the type of plastic that an item is made out of. This can be helpful when recycling plastics because different types of plastic need to be recycled differently.

There are a lot of different recycling codes out there, and it can be confusing to know which one applies to plastic. In this blog post, we will break down the seven most common recycling codes for plastic and explain what they mean.

What are Plastic Recycling Codes?

Plastic recycling codes are numbers that are printed on plastic products. They are used to identify which type of plastic the product is made out of and how it can be recycled.


Each recycling code has a number between 1 and 7, with each number representing a different type of plastic material. This allows recycling centers to quickly identify what type of plastic an item is made out of so they can properly recycle it.

In our modern lives, plastic is everywhere. Unfortunately, when we throw away plastic, it becomes a major environmental problem. Non-biodegradable plastics can end up choking waterways, polluting streets, and taking up space in landfills.

But recycling plastic can help! Most plastics can be successfully recycled – and manufacturers usually include special codes on the item to make recycling easier.

Given the importance of recycling plastics and the potential environmental impact, understanding recycling codes is a great way to do your part for the environment.

How Plastic is Recycled

It’s important to know what recycling codes mean because plastic recycling isn’t a one-size-fits-all process. Different types of plastics require different recycling processes, so recycling centers need to know the type of plastic before they can start recycling it.


Plastics are recycled through a process called mechanical recycling. This involves breaking down large pieces of plastic into smaller fragments and then melting them down into pellets that can be used to make new products like toys and containers.

The recycling code on an item tells the recycling center how to best recycle the product. For example, certain types of plastics cannot be melted down together or may not be able to go through the same recycling process as other types of plastic.

The recycling of plastic is an important step in reducing the environmental impact of plastic waste.

By recycling plastic, we can reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in landfills and waterways, as well as reduce the amount of energy and resources required to produce new plastics.

In addition to recycling codes helping recycling centers identify which type of plastic needs to be recycled, they also help consumers make smarter decisions when buying products.

Many manufacturers now use recyclable packaging for their products, so it’s important to look out for recycling codes and buy items with easily recyclable packaging whenever possible.

Understanding Recycling Codes

Recycling codes are printed on plastic containers or packages to give recycling centers an idea of how best to recycle them. The recycling codes are usually made up of a triangle of arrows surrounding a number, known as the Plastics Identification Code.


This code helps recycling centers identify what type of plastic it is and how it should be recycled.

The recycling code system is divided into seven categories, each representing a different type of plastic that can be recycled. Here is what you need to know:

Plastic Recycling Symbol #1: PET(E)

This recycling code is printed on most plastic food and drink containers. This type of plastic has the recycling symbol with the number 1 inside the triangle of arrows.


PET(E) stands for polyethylene terephthalate, which is usually used to make soft drink bottles, peanut butter jars, and other food containers.

These can be recycled into new products like recycling bins, carpets, and beverage bottles. When recycling PET plastics, it’s important to make sure they are emptied and rinsed before being put in the recycling bin.

These plastics are inexpensive and lightweight and pose a low risk of leaching hazardous chemicals. It’s also completely safe to reuse a PET(E) plastic bottle as long as it isn’t scratched or otherwise damaged.

Plastic Recycling Symbol #2: HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene)

This recycling symbol is marked with the number 2 inside the recycling arrows. HDPE stands for high-density polyethylene and is often used to make milk jugs, detergent bottles, shampoo bottles, and other personal care products.


This type of plastic is also recyclable in many curbside recycling programs, but it’s important to check with your local recycling center as the acceptance policy can vary from place to place.

HDPE plastics are safe and non-toxic; they won’t leach any chemicals into food or beverages that you store in them. That’s why they are recycled into products like recycling bins, plastic bags, toys, and even outdoor furniture.

Plastic Recycling Symbol #3: PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)

This recycling symbol has the number 3 inside the recycling arrows. PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride and is commonly used to make plastic wraps, pipes, windows, siding, wire jacketing, and other products.


This type of plastic is not generally accepted in recycling programs due to the potential health risks associated with the recycling process. PVC contains chlorine which can produce dioxin when it is heated up during recycling.

Depending on a company’s policies, some recycling centers may accept this type of plastic for recycling, while others will not.

Essentially, these types of plastics are recycled into mats, cables, speed bumps, roadway gutters, flooring, paneling, mud flaps, and decks.

Plastic Recycling Symbol #4: LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene)

This recycling symbol has the number 4 inside the recycling arrows. LDPE stands for low-density polyethylene, and this type of plastic is usually found in frozen food packaging, squeezable bottles, and plastic shopping bags.


It is important to note that recycling centers don’t always accept this type of plastic, so you should check with your local recycling center before recycling this type of plastic.

This type of plastic is typically recycled into garbage can liners, compost bins, crates, and panels.

Plastic Recycling Symbol #5: PP (Polypropylene)

This recycling symbol has the number 5 inside the recycling arrows. PP stands for polypropylene and is often used to make yogurt cups, bottle caps, straws, and some food containers.


The chemical formulation of this plastic material gives it a high-melting point, making it useful for products like bottle caps and plastic containers that need to resist heat.

This type of plastic is generally accepted in recycling programs and can be recycled into items such as brooms, brushes, ice scrapers, battery cables, and more.

Many curbside programs accept PP plastics, so it’s important to check with your recycling center before recycling this type of plastic.

However, it is advised to check the container for any biodegradable plastic labels, as PP plastic recycling is limited.

Plastic Recycling Symbol #6: PS (Polystyrene)

This recycling symbol has the number 6 inside the recycling arrows. PS stands for polystyrene and is used to make foam cups, egg cartons, and meat trays, as well as packaging materials like Styrofoam peanuts.


Although this type of plastic can be recycled, it doesn’t have a high recycling rate due to its low value and harmful environmental impacts when heated up during recycling. As such, most recycling centers don’t accept this type of plastic for recycling.

PS plastics are typically recycled into items such as picture frames, rulers, plastic cutlery, and more.

Styrene monomer is a potential carcinogen, and, as a result, recycling centers are wary of recycling PS plastics. Moreover, recycling centers may refuse this type of plastic because it’s 98% air and boasts potential hazards.

The proper way to dispose of PS plastics is to take it to a recycling center that specializes in recycling this type of plastic or to contact your local recycling center for more information.

Plastic Recycling Symbol #7: All Other Plastics

All the other plastic compounds that don’t fit into the previous six categories are labeled with the recycling symbol 7.


This recycling symbol is usually used for plastic products that contain two or more types of plastic, such as sun glasses, some to-go containers, and single-serve coffee cups.

Polycarbonate is one type that falls under this recycling symbol. It is typically used to make water bottles and food storage containers, but recycling centers may not accept it for recycling because of the potential for leaching a hormone-disrupting chemical called bisphenol A (BPA).

Polylactic Acid (PLA) is another type of plastic that falls under recycling symbol 7. It is typically used for biodegradable food packaging, dishes, and utensils. It is carbon-neutral in nature since it is derived from plants.

In the majority of cases, category 7 plastics are not accepted by recycling centers. So, check with your municipality or local recycling center for proper disposal of this plastic.

Essentially, these plastics are recycled into custom-made products and plastic lumber.

How Plastic Waste is Harming the Environment?

Plastic waste is one of the most pressing environmental issues facing our planet. Plastics can take hundreds of years to break down, and a lot of it ends up polluting our environment.


It’s important to remember that recycling plastic isn’t enough – we also need to reduce the amount of plastic waste that we produce in the first place. To do this, we need to look for alternatives such as reusable containers or biodegradable packaging whenever possible.

We should also be conscious about recycling properly; recycling codes are a great way to make sure that you’re disposing of your plastics responsibly and doing your part for the environment.

Some staggering stats about plastic waste:

  1. Plastic never really goes away–it just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces over time. In fact, it takes 400 years to completely degrade. That means that the plastic we use today will still be here in 400 years!
  2. In 2021, there was an estimation of 8.3 billion tons of plastic scattered throughout the world. If you’re having trouble visualizing that much waste, pretend it’s 55 million jumbo jets’ worth of litter.
  3. A dismal 8.7% of total plastic waste created was recycled in America in 2018. This means that 91.3% of all plastic waste generated was sent to landfill, instead of being recycled.
  4. We can’t definitively say how much plastic has entered the ocean since 1950, but recent estimates show that approximately 8 million metric tons are added to this total annually. This equals five grocery bags brimming with plastic for each foot of the coastline on our planet.

Take Part in Local Waste Management with CheckSammy

CheckSammy can help you understand recycling codes and plastic recycling numbers to make sure you properly dispose of plastic items. It is one of the world’s largest bulk junk removal recycling and removal companies offering its services across the country.


With over 5000 drivers and 25,000 reverse recycling carriers, CheckSammy is one of the most reliable recycling companies in the USA.

By partnering with CheckSammy, you can take part in local waste management and create a greener world for generations to come.

It allows you to track recycling and waste management activities so you know what recycling codes to look for and which plastic recycling numbers are accepted.

Most importantly, CheckSammy believes in using technology to create recycling solutions for your area.

So, if you’re looking for a reliable recycling company that understands recycling codes and plastic recycling numbers, CheckSammy is the perfect choice for you.


Given the increasing amount of plastic waste, recycling codes and plastic recycling numbers need to be followed correctly in order to reduce the impact of waste on our planet.

Whether you are a business, a recycling center, or an individual looking to dispose of plastic properly, you can contact CheckSammy for assistance.

The company’s recycling and sustainable junk removal solutions are all supported by easy-to-use technology that produces detailed data reports to help with strategic decision-making.

Contact CheckSammy Today to Get Started on Your Sustainable Waste Removal Journey!

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