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Identifying plastics

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.


Code Abbreviation Full name Common domestic uses Recycling details
Recycling code 1
PET (or PETE) Polyethylene terephthalate 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.
Recycling code 2
HDPE 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.
Recycling code 3
PVC Polyvinyl chloride Window frames, drainage pipes, shower curtains, clothing, toys, large squash bottles. Not generally collected from households for recycling. PVC use in packaging is in decline.
Recycling code 4
LDPE 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.
Recycling code 5
PP Polypropylene Soup pots, margarine tubs, most bottle tops, waterproof clothing, carrier bags. Not generally collected for household recycling, although it has good potential. However, mixed plastic recycling is expected to be under way within five years.
Recycling code 6
PS Polystyrene Take away cups, yoghurt pots, cushioning of breakable objects in packaging. Not generally collected from households for recycling. Some commercial polystyrene is recycled.
Recycling code 7
Other   Includes acrylic glass (perspex), nylon and polycarbonate. Items made from a blend of plastics also fall into this category. Not generally collected from households for recycling.



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