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Plastic Recycling Symbols

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Plastic Recycling Symbols

Plastic Recycling Symbols: Introduction


Plastic recycling symbols are the ones that contain a number inside an “arrowed” triangle. Every good plastic materials, such as bowls, cups, bottles will bear a plastic recycling symbol at the bottom. We are always told that plastic usage should be limited, and that one is safe from the other.


What is this “safe”? How do we know that the plastic bottles we have purchased are “safe” to use?


The answer is simple—the numbers (ranging from 1 to 7) inside each plastic recycling symbol will tell us whether the plastic is “safe” to be used.


Let us find out.


  • Plastic Recycling Symbols #1

This #1 stands for PET or PETE (Polyethylele Teraphthalate). #1 is usually clear and is used on soda bottles, beer bottles, peanut butter containers, mouthwash bottles, salad dressing containers and water bottles.

This plastic is recycled into furniture, paneling, carpet, tote bags, polar fleece and fiber.

  • Plastic Recycling Symbols #2

This #2 stands for HDPE (High Density Polyethylene). With a lower risk of leaching, this opaque plastic is one of the 3 plastics that is considered safe. #2 is used on juice bottles, cereal box liners, motor oil bottles, household cleaners, milk jugs, detergent bottles, butter tubs and yogurt tubs.

This plastic is recycled into picnic tables, benches, fencing, pens, lumber, recycling containers, etc.

  • Plastic Recycling Symbols #3

This #3 stands for PVC or V (Vinyl). #3 is used on detergent bottles, plumbing pipes, shampoo bottles, cooking oil bottles, windows, medical equipment, clear food packaging and piping.  

Plastics with #3 may contain phthalates that are linked to numerous health issues—developmental problems to miscarriages. These also contain DEHA that is linked to loss of bone mass and liver problems. NEVER cook with or burn this plastic.

This plastic is recycled into flooring, decks, roadway gutters, paneling and speed bumps.

  • Plastic Recycling Symbols #4

This #4 stands for LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene). Considered to be safe, #4 is used on clothing, bread bags, squeezable bottles, carpet, shopping bags, some food wraps and frozen food.

This plastic is recycled into trash can liners, trash cans, shipping envelops, paneling, floor tiles and compost bins.

  • Plastic Recycling Symbols #5

This #5 stands for PP (Polypropylene). Considered to be safe, #5 is used on ketchup bottles, medicine bottles, shakers, syrup bottles and yogurt containers.

This plastic is recycled into bicycle racks, signal lights, bins, battery cases, pallets, ice scrapers and brooms.

  • Plastic Recycling Symbols #6

This #6 stands for PS (Polystyrene). Polysterene is difficult to recycle—very bad for the environments. This plastic poses great health risk, leaching potentially toxic chemicals, especially when heated. #6 I found on meat trays, egg cartons, disposable cups, compact disc cases, and disposable plates.

This plastic is recycled into insulation, vents, egg cartons and foam packing.

  • Plastic Recycling Symbols #7

This #7 stands for ‘other’ and does not fit into the above categories #1 to #6. A mix bag of plastics, it includes polycarbonate. This polycarbonate contains toxic BPA (bisphenol-A). This plastic is linked to hyperactivity, reproductive problems, infertility and other serious health problems.

#7 is used on bullet-proof materials, iPod cases, nylon, 3-gallon water bottles, 5-gallon water bottles, sunglasses and computer cases.

This plastic is recycled into lumber and custom-made product(s).

Bottom Line

Plastic recycling symbols to look for are #2, #4, and #5—the safest plastics. #3, #6 and #7 should be totally avoided. Where #1 is concerned, try to avoid it though it is safe.


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