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Plastic Recycling Codes

Recycling of plastics desirable becasue it helps to conserve natural resources and reduces solid waste. A steady stream of clean, sorted plastics is needed to enhance the economic viability of the recycling process. Most Americans live in communities where at least some types of plastic packaging can be recycled through municipal programs. These programs and the markets for the plastic collected are best served when consumers can begin the sorting process. The following plastic resin identification codes are used on bags, containers, packaging, and products in North America and Europe to assist consumers in sorting plastics:

Numerical codeAbbreviationFull NameExample Uses
1PETEPolyethylene Terephthalate (PET)Soft Drink and Beer Bottles, Food and Produce Containers
2HDPEHigh Density PolyethyleneMilk Bottles, Food and Cosmetic Containers, Pails, Grocery Bags
3VPolyvinyl Chloride (PVC or simply Vinyl)Pipes, Tubing, Wire Insulation
4LDPELow Density PolyethyleneBags and Film
5PPPolypropyleneFood and drug containers
6PSPolystyrenePlates, Cutlery, CD Holders, Food Packaging, Expanded Foam

PET (1) and HDPE (2) are the two most-used plastics in consumer product packaging; their availability means that they are the most widely recycled. In addition to post-consumer recycling of common packaging plastic types, a robust market for recycled plastics exists in the industrial sector. The industrial market is not restricted to those resins listed above, but is driven by availability of quantity and quality/purity of supply of recyclable product for any individual plastic type.

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