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Recycle Numbers: Is Your Package Recyclable?

The three arrows chasing each other in a triangle shape has become universally known as the recycle symbol. However, just because there is a recycle symbol, doesn't necessarily mean the packaging can be recycled. So how well do you know your recycle numbers? Keep reading below to see what each recycle number is commonly used for and how recyclable each plastic truly is.


#1 PETE / PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) Easiest to recycle, can be recycled curbside. Most commonly used for beverage bottles. Commonly used for soda, water, peanut butter, salad dressing, and vegetable oil containers. Recycled into fibers for carpet, fleece jackets, tote bags, food & beverage containers, and more.

#2 HDPE (High Density Polyethylene) Easy to recycle, can be recycled curbside. Commonly used for dairy, juice, household cleaner, shampoo, and motor oil containers. Recycled into recycling bins, pens, floor tile, drainage pipes, plastic lumber, fencing, and more.

#3 PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) Difficult to recycle. Difficult to recycle due to having a lower melting point than PET and HDPE and is composed of chemicals that can contaminate. Commonly used for window cleaner, detergent, shampoo, cooking oil bottles, and clear food packaging. Recycled into pipe, decking, gutters, carpet backing, mud flaps, traffic cones, and more.

#4 LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene) Easy and moderately hard to recycle. The rigid form of LDPE can be recycled curbside, but the flexible form (i.e. bags, shrink wrap, bubble wrap etc.) must be taken to store drop-off locations and cannot be put in the curbside recycling bin. Commonly used for container lids, squeezable bottles, shrink wrap, and bags. Recycled into shipping envelopes, garbage can liners, floor tile, paneling, furniture, trash cans, and more.

#5 PP (Polypropylene) Moderately hard to recycle. Not all curbside accepts PP, but more are accepting the plastic. Majority of caps are made from PP and are encouraged to be recycled with the container they come on (even though the container may be made from another type of plastic) Commonly used for yogurt containers, bottle caps, medicine bottles, and ketchup bottles. Recycled into battery cases for cars, ice scrapers, oil funnels, storage bins, shipping pallets, and more.

#6 PS (Polystyrene) Difficult to recycle. More commonly known as styrofoam, but can also be made into rigid containers such as jars. The styrofoam form is difficult to recycle due to being composed mainly of air. Commonly used for disposable food service items, egg cartons, and protective packaging. Recycled into thermal insulation, thermometers, egg cartons, protective packaging, and more.

#7 OTHER Difficult to recycle due to not having a standardized plastic identification. The symbol covers plastics such as BPA, other mixes of plastics, and even new plastics that are designed to be more eco-friendly such as PLA. Commonly used for three and five gallon water bottles and certain food containers. Recycled into plastic lumber or other bottle applications.

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