Plastics: Important Terms, Symbols And The Types That Can Be Recycled

Until recent years, plastics were the widely accepted form of commercial containers, so they have become ingrained into everyday life. While their long-term effects on human health and the environment make them less appreciated, they still largely dominate the economy. However, you can keep yourself and your loved ones safe by knowing the meaning of the terms and labels on plastics. Indeed, no knowledge learned is ever meaningless; as simple as these symbols may look, they hint at the plastic container's key features, like whether it is recyclable or not.

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By Cookist

Surely you have noticed a chasing arrow on your plastic container before? What about the triangular symbol at the bottom? Do you know what they mean?

If you answered affirmatively to all the questions but the last, then you should know that these symbols, albeit simple, tell a lot about plastics. They identify the type of plastic used to make the bottle and even help you know which is recyclable and otherwise.

 The Little Triangular Symbol Explained 


It is a common misconception that this triangular symbol is a sign that the container is fit for recycling. Infact, the symbol was initially created to identify the kind of plastic used to make the container.

It is called a Resin Identification Code (RIC) and is sometimes used by recyclers to sort plastic. However, they are the only ones that can do this since they have the know-how for it; for the average person, sorting out recyclables using that symbol is not accurate.

If not clearly stated that it can be recycled, the best way to sort your plastics is by conducting thorough research on what kind of plastics are accepted in your community and, subsequently, what companies do so.

While doing this, you will need to know the standard terms of plastics. The list cannot be exhausted, but here are seven most common terms.

1. Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC, Vinyl)


This is a trendy term in the plastics industry. PVC is commonly used to produce packages for deli, meat as well as a shrink wrap.

The good news is that it is recyclable, and some of the products it can be used to make after the recycling process include flooring material, cables, gutters, pipes, etc.

2. Polypropylene (PP)


PP is commonly used to make packaging for food items like margarine, yogurt, take out meals, bottles for drugs, and many others.

It can also be recycled to produce things like garden races, shovels as well as appliances related to automobiles such as ice scrapers, battery cases, signal lights, battery cables, etc.

3. Polystyrene (PS)


PS is used to produce containers for food items like cups, plates, cartons, packing peanuts, etc. When recycled, the PS material can be used to make thermal insulation, picture frames, thermometers, light switch plates, vents, etc.

4. Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE) or (PET)


PET is most commonly used to make bottles and food jars. However, when recycled, they are used to make carpet fibers, fleece jackets, food containers, and even more amazingly, non-potable items like total bags.

5. High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)


This is also used to make bottles for both food and non-food items like household cleaners, trash, and retail bags.

Like the materials mentioned above, HDPE can be recycled. When done so, it is used to make bottles for items like detergent, pipe, tiles, shampoo, and many more.


LDPE is used to make bags for bread, frozen foods, fresh farm produce, dry cleaning, etc. When recycled, it can be used to manufacture compost bins, trash cans, garbage can liners, landscape timber, and outdoor lumber.

7. Other


The term "Other" tells you that a package is made with resin (plastic) other than the basic six outlined above or made using more than one resin.

Such resins are used to produce three- and five-gallon reusable water bottles and some citrus juice and ketchup bottles.

The products that can be made with recycled "other" resin are bottles and plastic lumber tools.

Now, you can't make a mistake dumping recyclables inappropriately. If you are confused while sorting out recyclables, check your phone directory for a recycling company near you and state your issue of concern.

Cheers to making the world a better place! 

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