Have you ever noticed a triangle on the bottom of plastic packaging with a number on it? If not, it’s something you’ll start looking out for if you want an easy indicator to tell whether something is recyclable or not.
The numbers one through to seven aren’t recycling symbols, but are resin or plastic identification numbers that tell you what kind of plastic the product or packaging is made from, and it can tell you whether or not something is recyclable.
To make it easy for you, we’ve broken down what these seven codes are, what each one means, and which bin they belong in. It’s not always 100% clear cut, so it’s always best to check your council’s recycling website to see if they have any specific rules and understand what other symbols mean on the packaging – read more here.
You can also check out some of our free national recycling programs at TerraCycle where we tackle these hard-to-recycle materials, or our Zero Waste Box solution, which recycles almost any waste stream.
PLASTIC RECYCLING SYMBOL #1: PET or PETE
PET or PETE (polyethylene terephthalate) is the most common plastic for single-use bottled beverages like ketchup bottles, soft drinks and mouthwash. PET can be collected by most kerbside recycling as long as it’s clean and empty. It’s always best to try to remove and bin plastic caps, as these are typically made from a different plastic.
Can it be recycled? YES as these items are a rigid/hard plastic, they can be recycled through your recycling bin.
PLASTIC RECYCLING SYMBOL #2: HDPE
HDPE (high density polyethylene) has many uses, especially when it comes to packaging, anything from plastic milk bottles, household cleaners and detergents bottles. HDPE is readily recyclable in most municipal recycling facilities in Australia.
Can it be recycled? Rigid/hard plastic items can be recycled through your recycling bin.
PLASTIC RECYCLING SYMBOL #3: PVC or V
PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and V (vinyl) is a durable material, so is commonly used for things like piping and siding. PVC is seen in products like shampoo bottles, blister packaging and window piping. These materials are frequently not accepted in municipal recycling, so it’s worth checking before recycling to ensure you don’t risk contaminating the load.
Can it be recycled? PVC or V is frequently made up of complex plastics that aren’t accepted in kerbside recycling programs.
PLASTIC RECYCLING SYMBOL #4: LDPE
LDPE (low density polyethylene) is a flexible plastic with many applications from furniture, shopping bags, squeezy bottles and frozen food. These are often complex plastics which make them hard to recycle. For instance, things like toothpaste tubes that are squeezy and flexible aren’t often accepted by municipal recycling, so it’s best to recycle these through our free national recycling program with Colgate. Otherwise, you can also recycle soft plastics at local participating Woolworths and Coles supermarkets through, Redcycle.
Can it be recycled? NO lightweight soft plastic bags cannot be recycled in the yellow lidded recycling bin. Some soft plastics through REDcycle, otherwise check for a TerraCycle program.
PLASTIC RECYCLING SYMBOL #5: PP
PP (polypropylene) is a harder more durable plastic, with a high melting point. You’ll see it in products like medicine bottles and yogurt tubs. Often, PP is accepted in kerbside recycling in Australia.
Can it be recycled? Rigid/hard plastic items can be recycled through your recycling bin. Check with your local council.
PLASTIC RECYCLING SYMBOL #6: PS
PS (polystyrene) can be made into rigid or foam products like takeout food containers, cups and filler for packaging. The material has been often criticised as it’s extremely difficult to recycle and easily breaks into small micro-plastics. Australian Federal Government will be phasing out polystrene from mid-2022, read more here. Polystyrene is not accepted in recycling bins.
Can it be recycled? NO expanded polystyrene—foam cups , takeaway containers and packaging cannot be recycled in your recycling bin. Styrofoam can be recycled through a TerraCycle Zero Waste Box, but there is no free program at the moment.
PLASTIC RECYCLING SYMBOL #7: Miscellaneous
A wide variety of plastic resins that don’t fit into the previous categories are lumped into this one. Polycarbonate is number seven plastic, it can even include PLA (polylactic acid), which is made from plants and is carbon neutral. That’s why it’s also important to check out what other symbols mean on the packaging. When it comes to recycling, these wastes typically aren’t accepted in kerbside recycling, but you should always check what your council recycling accepts.
Can it be recycled? YES & NO As the number 7 includes a range of plastic types and items, the recyclability of these will depend on the individual item. Check for a TerraCycle program before throwing it in the red bin.