Some types of plastic are highly recyclable, while others aren’t. The key to which plastics are recyclable is to examine the plastic for that little triangle made of arrows and then look up the number inside it. Plastic numbers 1, 2, 4 & 5 can be recycled.
- #1 PETE or PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) –Polyethylene Terephthalate is a common form of plastic used to form soft drink bottles, peanut butter jars, salad dressing, cooking oil, many cleaning products.
- #2 HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene) – High-Density Polyethylene is a thicker form of plastic used for a wide variety of products due to its extreme durability. It is used primarily for packaging detergents, bleach, milk containers, hair care products, and motor oil. It is recycled into more bottles or bags.
- #3 PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) – Polyvinyl Chloride is a softer plastic used for plastic wrap, teething rings, inflatable pool toys, and pipes and tubes. Its high tolerance for sunlight and weather phenomena makes it ideal for use in garden hoses, trellises, and other outdoor products.
- #4 LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene) – Low-Density Polyethylene Is used for grocery bags, garment bags, and bread bags. LDPE is considered less toxic than other plastics and relatively safe for use. However, it is not commonly recycled, although this is changing in many communities today as more plastic recycling programs gear up to handle this material. When recycled, LDPE plastic is used for plastic lumber, landscaping boards, garbage can liners, and floor tiles.
- #5 PP (Polypropylene) – Polypropylene plastic is rigid and lightweight and has excellent heat-resistance qualities. It serves as a barrier against moisture, grease, and chemicals.
- #6 PS (Polystyrene) – Polystyrene by the name alone, you can guess its function. We often refer to this material as ‘styrofoam’ and see it most commonly used in takeaway boxes at restaurants, to-go cups for hot or cold beverages, egg cartons, and packaging peanuts. A versatile substance, it is also used as insulation and sheeting for laminate flooring. While the technology for recycling polystyrene is available, the recycling market is small.
- #7 Other (BPA, Polycarbonate, and LEXAN) – This category includes a variety of plastic types, some of which are recyclable and some of which are not. You’ve doubtless heard of BPA and its negative connotations.
You may not have heard of PLA, a new form of compostable plastic made from corn starch. While PLA is compostable, it, along with the other #7s, is not recyclable.
Industrial plastic waste
Recyclers that process industrial plastic waste are very selective in accepting the collected plastic waste. They are actively looking for plastic waste streams suitable for recycling into regranulate or products for their buyers. In this manner, some industrial plastic waste material can be recycled profitably, with limited processing.