Plastic Recycling Symbols

Written by Melia Ortiz, ESLLC 2016-2017


Before you go to throw a plastic container in the trash, you hopefully check for the little recycling logo, but have you ever payed any attention to the number that appears inside that logo? This number gives you information about the type of plastic and whether it is recyclable through your recycling program. Denver, like many other recycling programs across the country, recycle plastic containers in all numbers 1 through 7. However, some recycling programs accept only a few numbers. Los Angeles, for example, only recycles numbers 1 and 2. It is important to find out what numbers can be recycled where you are so you can correctly sort your waste.

  • PETE- Polyethylene Terephthalate

Polyethylene Terephthalate plastics are the easiest plastics to recycle, and therefore included in nearly every recycling program. PETE is used for many different plastic products because it is strong, lightweight, non-reactive, economical, and shatterproof. Water bottles, soda bottles, food containers, and pharmaceutical containers are all often made of PETE. This plastic can be recycled into fiberfill for sleeping bags and coats, fabric for t-shirts and fleece jackets, ropes, automotive parts such as headliners, bumpers, and door panels, and more.

  • HDPE- High Density Polyethylene

High Density Polyethylene plastics are also easily recycled and are included in even the most limited recycling programs. HDPE is known for its large strength-to-density ratio. It is also harder, more opaque, and can withstand higher temperatures than PETE plastics. They are often used to package detergents, bleach, milk, hair care products, and motor oil. When recycled, HDPE can be made into bottles, trash cans, traffic cones, flower pots, and bags.

  • PVC- Polyvinyl Chloride

Polyvinyl Chloride plastics are very challenging to recycle. They can be either rigid or flexible and are used for a wide variety of purposes including shampoo bottles, pipes, toys, furniture, electrical cable insulation and fast food service items. Recycled PVC is usually made into drainage and irrigation pipes.

  • LDPE- Low-Density Polyethylene

Low-Density Polyethylene is a flexible, tough plastic used for grocery bags, bread bags, shrink wrap. While these products may fall under number 4 recycling, many recycling programs, including the one in Denver, do not allow these things to be recycled. Where they can be recycled, they are usually made into new plastic grocery bags.

  • PP- Polypropylene

Polypropylene is a rugged, chemical resistant plastic used for yogurt containers, straws, syrup bottles, and bottle caps. PP can be recycled into fibers, plastic lumber, car battery cases, and manhole steps.

  • PS- Polystyrene

Polystyrene comes in both rigid and foam forms. As a foam, it is more commonly known as Styrofoam, is not excepted by most recycling programs. It is commonly uses in disposable hot cups, packing material, and meat trays. Rigid PS plastic is used for disposable plates and cups, CD cases and aspirin bottles. This plastic can be recycled into plastic lumber, insulation, and flower pots.

  • Other

Plastics labeled with the number 7 can by a mixture of any or all of the other plastics or another less common plastic such as polyurethane. Ketchup bottles and microwavable dishes often fall under this category of recycling.

It is important to note that some products included in these categories cannot be recycled though all recycling programs. In Denver plastic bags, caps, shrink wrap, toys, toothpaste tubes, and Styrofoam are not recyclable. For more information on Denver recycling visit


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