If you’ve ever purchased a plastic bottle of water, a bottle of laundry detergent, or a gallon of milk in a plastic jug, then you’ve probably noticed the small number in the center of a recycling symbol on the bottom. These numbers, ranging between 1 and 7, are small, but they play an important role in the recycling of plastics. Numbers 1-7 tell consumers, as well as recycling centers, what types of plastic the products are made of.
The numbers that identify types of plastic make up the ASTM International Resin Identification Coding System. This system is more commonly referred to as RIC. The system was developed in 1988 by the Plastics Industry Association, but has been distributed by ASTM International since 2008. RIC helps to identify what kind of plastic resin was used to create the product it is on. It also helps guide the general public on what steps need to be taken to ensure the plastic is recycled. Follow along for a detailed overview of each RIC.
Types of Plastic – An Overview of Numbers 1 through 7
Number 1 – PETE
RIC 1 – also referred to as PETE, represents polyethylene terephthalate. This is a plastic polymer frequently used in soda bottles, plastic tote bags, carpeting, furniture, and paneling. Plastic products that have the 1 symbol on them are often accepted through curbside recycling programs offered in cities and towns across the country. Interestingly enough, PETE plastic is semi-porous and absorbs the color of the product within it. This is important because most PETE plastic, when recycled, is used in the creation of lower grade plastic products.
Number 2 – HDPE
HDPE is the abbreviation for the second RIC number and stands for high-density polyethylene. This plastic is commonly used to create cleaning supply bottles, plastic shopping bags, milk jugs, and playground equipment. It’s even used in the recycling bins that end up being filled with other plastic products. HDPE’s main ingredient is petroleum which makes it highly resistant to solvents. This means that it is perfect for many long term applications including: corrosion protection for pipes, gas tanks for vehicles, and frames for long-distance backpacks. Recycling Number 2 is accepted through most curbside pickup recycling programs though some have certain specifications that recyclers must follow.
Number 3 – PVC
PVC is an abbreviation most people are familiar with and have encountered at least once in their lives. Polyvinyl choloride (PVC) is one of the common types of plastic used in piping, window frames, shower curtains, and toys. This plastic, which is the third most highly produced in the world, after polyethylene and polypropylene, is harder to recycle. Number 3 plastics must be taken to a facility, such as Lastique International Corporation, in order to be properly recycled. Curbside programs will not pick up PVC, but with a quick call to a plastic resin processing company, consumers can continue to help the environment and keep plastic out of landfills.
Number 4 – LDPE
Number 4 – LDPE is another plastic that consumers see in their day-to-day lives. This low-density polyethylene is both flexible and durable. Additionally, LDPE can be produced in variations that are opaque or transparent. Because LDPE withstands heat, it is perfect for the production of grocery bags and six-pack can rings. The downside to Number 4 plastic is that it isn’t often accepted through curbside programs. While there are many at-home uses for grocery bags, this drawback has driven grocery stores across the country to start offering incentives for consumers to return and reuse grocery bags in order to keep them out of landfills.
Number 5 – PP
Polypropylene or PP is number 5 plastic. This plastic variation is one of the safer forms of plastic currently on the market which makes it perfect for food storage. Many food containers including ketchup bottles, yogurt tubs, and Tupperware are made from PP plastic. Some curbside recycling programs accept Number 5 plastics, but the plastic must be cleaned of all food waste before it can be accepted. Polypropylene plastic is also used in the creation of polymer banknotes like the newly minted and colorful $100 bill (USD). By creating banknotes out of PP instead of paper, it is possible to add additional security features which make counterfeiting the bills more difficult.
Number 6 – PS
Number 6 plastic, or Polystyrene (PS), is used in a wide variety of products that are not commonly recycled due to their long lasting nature. These items include: CD cases, smoke detectors, frames for license plates, and different types of scientific lab equipment. Polystyrene comes in additional forms that include but are not limited to hard, sheet plastic. For example, polystyrene foams are used in insulation as well as packing products. And expanded polystyrene is also used in packing, but in the form of “peanuts” or plastic framing to create stability within boxes. An increasingly number of curbside programs are accepting Number 6 plastics due to the high amount of uses that it has.
Number 7 – Other
The final plastic number, 7, represents all other plastics besides the types described above. Some plastics that fall under number 7 include: acrylic, nylon, and bioplastic. These plastics are often used in car parts or car accessories and are not usually recycled in the traditional sense. The objects made by number 7 plastics can often be reused, or “upcycled,” and kept out of a landfill. Some curbside programs are now accepting these plastics, but not many.
Most types of plastic that are found and used daily can be recycled using programs available through the city government. Plastics that cannot be recycled in that manner don’t have to go to the landfill and shouldn’t be thrown away. If you have types of plastic that you cannot recycle conveniently and do not want to toss into your normal garbage bin, contact Lastique International Corporation.
America’s leader in recycled plastic resins that is located in Louisville, KY will work with you to obtain your plastic waste and reuse it in polymer pellet production. Call Lastique International Corporation at 502-995-8585 or fill out their website contact us form to get in touch with a member of the Lastique team.