Plastic Recycling Symbols and Meanings in the USA

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The Society of the Plastics Industry established the system of plastic recycling symbols in 1988. Each symbol consists of a recycling triangle logo with a number inside of it. These numbers correspond to the specific plastic resins used in an object. Depending on the region, some recyclable plastics may not be recycled because no local companies have a use for them. The numbering system helps facilities sort plastic items before they are recycled.

#1 PET

Polyethylene terephthlate is used to make most plastic soda bottles, water bottles and many other liquid containers. The recycling symbol is often accompanied by the abbreviation "PET" or "PETE." Polyethylene terephthlate is one of the most commonly recycled plastics in the United States. It is recycled into plastic fibers and tote bags, among other things.

#2 HDPE

High density polyethylene is used to make containers for cleaning products, milk, motor oil and some other substances. The recycling symbol is often accompanied by the abbreviation "HDPE." High density polyethylene is another commonly recycled plastic. It is used to make other bottles, floor tiles, plastic lumber and other industrial plastic containers.

#3 PVC

Vinyl, or polyvinyl chloride, is used to make plastic pipes, siding and some liquid containers. The recycling symbol is often accompanied by either the abbreviation "V" or "PVC." Vinyl is not commonly recycled. When it is recycled, it is typically used to make vinyl siding, flooring and tiles. Whether or not it is recycled depends on the local demand for vinyl materials.

#4 LDPE

Low density polyethylene is used to make plastic bags, plastic wrap and some squeezable bottles. The recycling symbol is often accompanied by the abbreviation "LDPE." Low density polyethelene is not commonly recycled. When it is recycled, it is used to make plastic lumber, garbage cans and some plastic furniture.

#5 PP

Polypropylene is used to make plastic straws, some yogurt tubs, bottle caps, prescription bottles and other hard plastic containers. The recycling symbol is often accompanied by the abbreviation "PP." Polypropylene is not commonly recycled. When it is recycled, it is used to make plastic brushes, some battery casings and other hard plastic objects.

#6 PS

Polystyrene is commonly known as Styrofoam. It is used to make cups, food containers and packaging materials. The recycling symbol is often accompanied by the abbreviation "PS." Polysterene is not commonly recycled. When it is recycled, it can be used to make some trash cans, rulers, insulation and license plate frames.

Miscellaneous

The seventh plastic resin group includes all of the resins not defined by the other groups. This includes polyvinylidene chloride, nylon and polycarbonate. Compact discs, microwavable dishes and some plastic wraps are made from resins in the seventh group. These resins are not commonly recycled. If they are recycled, they are usually used to make plastic lumber.

References

About the Author

Serm Murmson is a writer, thinker, musician and many other things. He has a bachelor's degree in anthropology from the University of Chicago. His concerns include such things as categories, language, descriptions, representation, criticism and labor. He has been writing professionally since 2008.

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