Recycling by the numbers

Allecia Vermillion

Learning to decipher the numbers, or resin codes, on your plastic trash items can help clean up your recycling bin.

[1] PET Polyethylene terephthalate

Where it is Plastic bottles for soda, water, beer, mouthwash, salad dressing and ketchup, and jars for peanut butter and jelly.

What it is A tough, usually clear plastic with a relatively porous surface. Refilling these disposable bottles over and over can invite bacteria.

Recycling PET is one of the most commonly recycled plastics and accepted by most curbside programs. It can be recycled into things like carpet, tote bags and synthetic fabrics.

[2] HDPE High-density polyethylene

Where it is Milk jugs, butter tubs, yogurt containers, cereal box liners, and bottles for cosmetics, shampoo, laundry detergents and household cleaners.

What it is Dense, usually opaque and resistant to solvents, making it useful in packaging products like detergent and bleach.

Recycling Most local recycling programs accept HDPE. This versatile plastic can be recycled back into materials like plastic pipe and floor tiles.

[3] PVC Polyvinyl chloride, or vinyl

Where it is Rigid plastic packaging (the kind that’s difficult to open) and non-food shrink-wrap.

What it is Tough and durable.

Recycling PVC can be difficult to recycle, although some plastic lumber manufacturers will accept it.

[4] LDPE Low-density polyethylene

Where it is Squeezable bottles, bread bags, frozen-meal trays, plastic shopping bags, dry-cleaning bags, garbage bags and coating for paper milk cartons.

What it is LDPE is known for being tough yet flexible. It’s commonly used for packaging.

Recycling While the number is growing, most communities do not accept LDPE curbside. Some programs will accept it at specific facilities. It can be recycled into more packaging.

[5] PP Polypropylene

Where it is Bottles of condiments like syrup and ketchup; medicine bottles; straws and food storage containers; and bottle caps.

What it is Polypropylene has a high melting point, making it useful with hot liquids.

Recycling Some curbside programs accept PP; check with your local service. Like LDPE, PP is gradually becoming accepted in more areas.

[6] PS Polystyrene

Where it is Disposable plates and cups, carryout containers, CD cases, packaging trays for chicken, and the infamous packing peanuts.

What it is A rigid or foamed plastic more widely known as the brand name Styrofoam.

Recycling PS is difficult to recycle and only rarely accepted by community programs.

[7] Other

Where it is Most notably those big jugs used for water coolers; also in various other consumer items.

What it is A variety of resins that don’t fit into other categories.

Recycling Traditional recycling programs usually don’t take these plastics.