Plastic Recycling: 7 Types Of Plastic And How To Recycle Them

Sometimes it seems like everything we own is made from plastic. Plastic is in our cars, packaging, toys, storage, kitchen utensils, and so on.

The problem is, it’s filling up our oceans and clogging up landfills. A 2016 study found that 32% of our plastic ends up in the ocean.[1]

Many of our plastic can be easily recycled, but with all the different rules and symbols, it can be really confusing and quite difficult to figure out what each symbol means and how to recycle it. 

You will probably have seen the universal plastic resin symbol (3 arrows chasing each other forming a triangle) but what you may not know is the number in the middle denotes a certain type of plastic, and how it can be recycled. 

At Vegums, we’re passionate about creating a sustainable world, so we do everything we can to help reduce plastic pollution. We wrote this plastic recycling guide to help anyone unsure how to recycle something, so we can help stop more plastic from going into a landfill.

Symbol Number 1 – PET or PETE

Plastic recycling PET symbol

PET or PETE stands for Polyethylene Terephthalate and is the most common plastic used for single-use bottled drinks. It’s lightweight, inexpensive, and can easily be recycled. 

Even though this type of plastic can be easily recycled, recycling rates are only around 20%.

What’s it used in:
PET or PETE is a clear, strong, and lightweight plastic that is widely used for packaging foods and beverages, especially convenience-sized soft drinks, juices, and water.

How to recycle it?
94% of UK councils will now collect PET plastic either from your recycling bin or from recycling centres. They do suggest removing bottle lids and putting them in the regular bin as they are often a mixture of different plastics. 

Where does it go?
PET/PETE can be used to make many new products, including new plastic bottles, clothing, industrial strapping, sheet and film, and automotive parts. 

Symbol Number 2 – HDPE

Plastic recycling HDPE symbol

HDPE stands for High-Density Polyethylene is one of the most used plastics due to its versatility. It is also readily available recyclable into many types of new goods and products.

What is it used in?
HDPE is used for containers for milk, motor oil, shampoos and conditioners, soap bottles, detergents, and bleaches.

How to recycle it?
HDPE can be recycled. However, you will need to check with your Local Authority to ensure it is recycled in your area.

Where does it go?
Recycled HDPE is often used to make things like piping, plastic lumber, recycling bins, and rope.

Symbol Number 3 – PVC

Plastic recycling PVC symbol

PVC stands for Polyvinyl Chloride. This plastic is tough and weathers well so are commonly used in creating piping and siding. 

What is it used in?
PVC is used in piping and siding, blood bags and tubing, wire and cable insulation, windshield system components, and more.

How to recycle it?
Currently, PVC is not recycled in the UK, so instead of binning it, try upcycling it. You can use piping in your garden to install drainage or guide new saplings.

Where does it go?
PVC cannot be recycled, so ask your local waste management to see if you should put it in the trash or drop it off at a collection centre.

Symbol Number 4 – LDPE

LDPE stands for Low-Density Polyethelene. This plastic has many applications but is only just becoming more recyclable. In the UK, you can put this in your recycle bin, but you may have to check with your local council to see if this is recycled. 

What is it used in?
LDPE is used mainly in film applications for both packaging and non-packaging applications, as well as plastic carrier bags. 

How to recycle it?
Check with your local council to see if LDPE can be recycled in your area.

Where does it go?
Recycled LDPE often becomes plastic lumber, landscaping boards, garbage can liners, and floor tiles.

Symbol Number 5 – PP

Polypropylene (PP) symbol. How to recycle it?

PP stands for Polypropylene. This is a very tough, heat-resistant plastic that retains its shape under high torsion, bending, or flexing.

What is it used in?
Polypropylene is used in plastic containers, reusable water bottles medical components, outdoor furniture, toys, luggage, and car parts.

How to recycle it?
Polypropylene is widely recyclable, so can be put straight into your recycling bin.

Where does it go?
Polypropylene can be recycled into brooms, brushes, garden rakes, and plastic trays.

Symbol Number 6 – PS

Polystyrene (PS) symbol. How to recycle it?

PS stands for Polystyrene. This is then made into rigid or foam products. It is popularly known as the trademark Styrofoam.

What is it used in?
Polystyrene is used for packaging products such as electronics and is used in the food industry for plates and cups.

How to recycle it?
Some local councils accept it in recycling collections although it is unlikely to be recycled. This means it should just go in general waste. 

Where does it go?
It can be compacted and transformed into items like clothes hangers, park benches, flower pots, toys, rulers, stapler bodies, seedling containers, picture frames, and architectural molding, but currently is not recycled and re-used. 

Symbol Number 7 – MISC

Other plastic recycling symbol. How to recycle it?

A wide variety of plastics that don’t fit into any of the previous categories are apart of this one. 

What is it used in?
Number 7 is used in large water bottles, bullet-proof materials, sunglasses, iPod and computer cases, signs and displays, and certain food containers.

How to recycle it?
Number 7 plastics can be several different types, and therefore are not recyclable. 

Where does it go?
As number 7 plastics are not recycled, we can try to upcycle them where possible. Examples such as water bottles can be re-used, and food containers re-used for meal prep. They can also be created into plastic lumber.

  1. http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_The_New_Plastics_Economy.pdf

As we are committed to reducing single-use plastic, so all of our packaging is plastic free.

You can get all of our vitamins in one complete easy bundle, all plastic free and in biodegradable packaging. You can even get an extra 10% off at checkout, just use code: school10

Close