A Guide to Identifying Recyclable Plastics

A Guide to Identifying Recyclable Plastics

Recycling is a crucial step towards reducing our environmental impact and promoting sustainability. When it comes to plastic waste, not all types of plastics can be recycled equally. Understanding how to identify recyclable plastics can make a significant difference in our recycling efforts. In this article, we will explore the key indicators and provide you with a breakdown of recyclable plastics by their respective numbers and percentages.

Plastic Identification Codes:

Plastic products often feature a triangular symbol with a number in the centre, known as the resin identification code (RIC). These codes range from #1 to #7 and provide valuable information about the recyclability of a specific plastic.

Recyclable Plastics:

Let's dive into the numbers and percentages of plastics that can be recycled:


Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET):

      - Description: PET is commonly used in beverage bottles, food containers, and polyester fibers.

      - Recyclability: PET is widely accepted for recycling, with approximately 29% of PET bottles being recycled globally.

High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE):

      - Description: HDPE is commonly used in milk jugs, detergent bottles, and various containers.

      - Recyclability: HDPE is highly recyclable, with a recycling rate of about 34% worldwide.

Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE):

      - Description: LDPE is commonly used in plastic bags, shrink wraps, and squeeze bottles.

      - Recyclability: LDPE can be recycled, but the recycling infrastructure for LDPE is less prevalent compared to PET and HDPE. Polypropylene (PP):

      - Description: PP is used in food containers, medicine bottles, and packaging.

      - Recyclability: PP is widely recycled, with a recycling rate of approximately 3-5%.

Other Plastics:

      - Description: This category includes various plastics like polycarbonate (PC) and others that don't fall into the other categories.

      - Recyclability: The recycling potential of plastics under this category varies significantly. Some plastics, like PC, have limited recycling options, while others may not be widely recycled.

Non-Recyclable Plastics:

While understanding recyclable plastics is essential, it's equally important to identify non-recyclable plastics to avoid contaminating recycling streams. Plastics like #3 - Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) and #6 - Polystyrene (PS) are challenging to recycle and are typically not accepted in curbside recycling programs.

Knowing how to identify recyclable plastics based on their resin identification codes empowers us to make informed decisions about recycling and waste management. By focusing on recycling the most commonly accepted plastics, such as PET, HDPE, LDPE, and PP, we can maximise our recycling efforts and contribute to a more sustainable future.

Remember, recycling infrastructure and practices may vary based on location, so it's essential to check with your local recycling facilities to understand specific guidelines and requirements. Together, let's strive to minimise plastic waste and build a greener planet.

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