Plastic means mouldable - so clay and wax could properly be defined as plastic - but these days the word tends to be used to mean synthetic polymers made from oil. There are more than 50 different types of plastics but six common types have been given codes which help identify them for recycling. There is a seventh category for "other" plastics.
Common domestic uses
PET (or PETE)
Clear drinks bottles, food packaging such as fruit punnets, textile fibres (polyester).
PET bottles are collected by 92% of councils. Recycled PET is generally used in fabrics such as fleece, strapping and carpets. New technology allows PET to be recycled into new food packaging.
High density polyethylene
Milk bottles, shampoo and cleaning product bottles.
HDPE bottles are collected by 92% of councils. They are recycled into garden furniture, litter bins and pipes. New technology allows HDPE to be recycled into new milk bottles.
Not generally collected from households for recycling. PVC use in packaging is in decline.
Low density polyethylene
Carrier bags, some bottles and containers, yokes holding four or six-packs of cans together, lining or laminating cardboard containers.
Carrier bags are collected by some supermarkets and recycled into low-grade uses such as bin bags.
Not generally collected from households for recycling. However, mixed plastic recycling is expected to be under way within five years.