Guide To Plastic Coding System: What's Behind The Number?

Plastics have been a part of our daily lives and will not be leaving us soon. Think of how many times a day you use plastic. I bet many times as you think!

So have you seen the arrow triangle symbol located at the bottom of it, with a number inside?

Do you know what these numbers stands for?

Many people think the number represents how many times that this product is to be recycled. But they’re wrong.

These numbers are called the Plastic Packaging Resin Identification Code. They are used to indicate the type of plastic the item was made from. These also helped consumers to identify and know whether and how the product is to be recycled.

Plastic Packaging Resin Identification Code

These numbers represents the chemical make up of that plastic.

Here's the name for each abbreviation:

  • 1 - POLYEHTYLENE TEREPHTHALATE (PET or PETE)
  • 2 - HIGH-DENSITY POLYETHYLENE (HDPE)
  • 3 - POLYVINYL CHLORIDE (PVC)
  • 4 - LOW-DENSITY POLYETHYLENE (LDPE)
  • 5 - POLYPROPYLENE (PP)
  • 6 - POLYSTYRENE (PS)
  • 7 – OTHERS


Have you ever said this line "It taste like plastic", when drinking on a plastic bottle?

That's because you are actually tasting the plastic! Many of the plastics used are toxic; the chemicals used to create these can leach out of the plastic and into the drink or food.

The chemical released by this plastic bottles can cause cancer.

So what's the worst numbers? It's numbers 3 , 6 , 7.

PLASTIC CODING SYSTEM

Let us elaborate further, its uses and adverse health effects:

#1 - POLYEHTYLENE TEREPHTHALATE (PET or PETE)

This is clear, tough and shatterproof and identified by the number 1. It provides a barrier to water, oxygen and carbon dioxide. This is ideal for use in carbonated soft drink bottles because of its ability to contain carbon dioxide.

American Chemistry Council caution that products made with PETE will only be used as indicated by the manufacturer; for example the microwavable trays, which can only be used one time and not to store foods other than what it is really intended for its use.

Reusing products made of PETE can be dangerous too. It was found to break down over time and can leach into the food when the product is reused. The main toxin is the DEHA, which found on the reused plastic bottles.

DEHA (di(ethylhexyl)adepate), is a form of carcinogen, can cause liver problems, possible reproductive difficulties and can cause cancer.


#2 - HIGH-DENSITY POLYETHYLENE (HDPE)

This is use to make many types of bottles because of its good barrier properties and well-suited for packaging products, and has a good chemical resistance. Among its uses are for juice, milk and water bottle along with household items like shampoo, detergent, motor oil, antifreeze, conditioner and cleaners. This can also be found on pipe, plastic film, buckets, recycling bins and crates.


#3 – POLYVINYL CHLORIDE (PVC)

This can manufactured to be either rigid or flexible. Flexible PVC is used for medical bags and showers curtains while the rigid ones used to make construction materials.

These can be found on food packaging, plastic wrap, cosmetics, curtains, toys, containers for toiletries, water pipes and garden hoes.

The FDA acknowledges that the building block of PVC is a human carcinogen. The compound DEHP (Di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate) that is found on PVC can cause endocrine disruption, decreased birth weight, linked to asthma and reproductive as well as developmental effects. If medical wastes with PVC and Phthalates are regularly incinerated, it can cause public health effects from the release of dioxins and mercury. This includes cancers, birth defects, declining sperm counts, infertility, system impairment and hormonal changes.


#4 - LOW-DENSITY POLYETHYLENE (LDPE)

This is used for its roughness, relative transparency and flexibility; that is why this is used to make bottles that requires extra flexibility. Also, this is used to produce plastic bags, grocery bags, garbage bags and squeezable bottles. It can also be found on toys, container lids, shrink wrap and packaging.

So while no known adverse health effects associated with the use of this plastic, somehow, organic pollutants are also formed during the manufacturing process.


#5 – POLYPROPYLENE (PP)

This is known for its high melting point; can also be manufactured as flexible or rigid. This is ideal for holding hot liquids that cool in the bottles. This is used for medicine bottles, bottle caps and other household items, containers for yogurt, margarine, and take-out meals. Also been used to produce disposable diapers, house wrap and outdoor carpets.

This is not easily recycled and no known health issues found.


#6 – POLYSTYRENE (PS)

This can be rigid or foamed. Commonly used for protective packaging like CD cases, food containers, insulation, egg cartons, building insulation, packaging and disposable cutlery.

The chemical Styrene can leach from Polystyrene and can act as a neurotoxin. It was studied on the animals the harmful effects of styrene on red-blood cells, liver, kidney and stomach organs.


#7 – OTHERS

This can be found on medical storage containers, electronics, most plastic baby bottles, sport water bottles, clear plastic “sippy” cups, 5-gallon water bottles and some clear plastic cutlery.

Health effects may vary depending on the plasticizers and resin in the plastic that often include Polycarbonates. These polycarbonates plastic leaches the Bisphenol A also known as BPA, a known endocrine disruptor. BPA has been found to create genetic damage and behavioural changes in a variety of species.

BPA is widely produced chemical and is used primarily for the production of polycarbonates. Polycarbonates plastics are typically hard and clear. The health risks of BPA nowadays are receiving an incredible attention because of its side effects to species exposed to it. High temperature can cause BPA to leach into food and beverage.


© 2012 Mycee. All Rights Reserved.

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Comments 76 comments

bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 4 years ago from Central Florida

So true, unknown! The most toxic plastics you name above 3, 6 and 7, contain BPA, which can cause cancer, impotence and more. I've written a green tip concerning BPA. I'll try to get it posted this weekend and include a link to this post.

Thanx for getting the word out!


kashmir56 profile image

kashmir56 4 years ago from Massachusetts

Hi M. thanks for all this valuable information, didn't know what those numbers in the triangle symbol meant .

Vote up and more !!!


snowdrops profile image

snowdrops 4 years ago from The Second Star to the Right

Very informative hub! Now I know what the number means.. Would check this every time I drink from plastic bottles. I used to reuse and reuse plastic bottles. But now, i really have to change my mind.

Thanks for the info Spy!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

Excellent informational hub that is worthy of being read by many. Great job of informing people of a serious issue.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Bravewarrior, Billy, K, and Snowie.. Thank you all. Glad to share this piece of info here for everybody to be aware of plastics. They are all around us so at least we can take precautions once in a while.


Angelme566 profile image

Angelme566 4 years ago

Thanks for this informative , now i would be more cautious in using plastics.Very practical and useful hub.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Thank you so much Angel for stopping by. Yes dear, please be cautious of using and re-using plastics.


chloelozano 4 years ago

Thanks for the information! Plastic bottles may be convenient but what is the point of convenience if it is bad for you. I love your user name by the way :)


shiningirisheyes profile image

shiningirisheyes 4 years ago from Upstate, New York

Very informative hub. I'm always for any attempt at bring more attention to each individuals "footprint". This may help reduce that a bit more if people are aware of what they are drinking.


Curiad profile image

Curiad 4 years ago from Lake Charles, LA.

A great and worthy Hub M. Thank you for sharing this!


GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 4 years ago from USA

Howdy unknown spy - Handy guide to plastic bottle (etc.) coding, but there seemed to be no definitive information as to the cancer-causing agents that some (or all) of the plastics bring with them. This is much like telling us that Chevrolet cars (the ones marked with a crooked cross mark) are accident-causing more so than are Hondas (with that wigwam-shaped letter "H" symbol. One might well ask, "why is that?"

Anyway, exploring some plastics history just for the fun of it, the reason that we have the polyamide plastic, nylon, is that prior to World War II it was thought that there might develop a shortage of edible meat. Experiments were undergone to try to develop synthetic protein(s). One wide-awake experimenter observed that the result of one of those tries was a lab beaker that had filled up with - ipso-facto - a useful plastic, the one we now know as nylon. As is well known, nylon never worked out to be any sort of food item, but it surely did become a widely used plastic.

Gus :-)))


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 4 years ago from Central Florida

spy, I stand corrected. I've already posted my green tip concerning BPA. You and GusTheRedneck should check out Green Tip #7 - Going Green in the Kitchen. It specifically addresses BPA, what it is and how damaging it is to the human body. Here's the link

http://bravewarrior.hubpages.com/hub/Remove-Toxins...


dwachira profile image

dwachira 4 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

Many times we harm ourselves not because we don't know but because of ignorance. Thanks for sharing this information. I'll always be checking the number at the bottom.


Michele Travis profile image

Michele Travis 4 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

Wow, thank you for this hub. I had not even thought about this, but now I will be checking the number on the bottom of the bottle. Like dwarchir wrote.


Eric Calderwood profile image

Eric Calderwood 4 years ago from USA

With all the dangers of plastic, along with the health concerns involved, and the fact that plastic is not an environmentally friendly substance, I don't understand why we don't go back to glass containers for our softdrinks and for our food containers (like peanut butter or jelly jars, etc.). Not only is glass made out of sand instead of a toxic substance, but it can be recycled easily. If expense is what is causing the use of plastics, couldn't we go back to the deposit and return policies that we had years ago. Also, I remember that glass containers were washed and reused by bottlers years back. And the taste of the product itself is so much better in a glass container. Surely there has to be some way to go back.


Mhatter99 profile image

Mhatter99 4 years ago from San Francisco

Have you ever noticed if you drink from a plastic bottle, it tastes different? Thank you for this


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

hi chloe, thank you for reading. yes, and not very recommended to re-use and re-use them.

(and thanks for liking my username, you made me smile)


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Thank you Shiningirisheyes :)

Thanks for stopping by and for this nice message.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Thank you so much Curiad for reading!


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Hi Gus, apologies for the missing info. But you can check BRAVEWARRIOR's hub for the details regarding BPA, here's the link:

http://hubpages.com/food/Remove-Toxins-by-Going-Gr...

As you can see, I just pinpoint on my hub the meaning of the numbers found inside the triangle symbol or on the bottom of a plastic bottle.

Thank you for the additional info Gus, at least, I've learn something new again. I do really appreciate it.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Bravewarrior, thanks for this! Yeah, your hub is a great explanation of BPA, which has been linked to obesity, neurological issues such as ADHD, thyroid dysfunction, breast and ovarian cancer, reproductive malfunctions, immune deficiencies,heart disease and prostate cancer! It’s especially harmful to infants and small children as baby bottles, pacifiers, sippy cups and liquid formula contain high concentrations of BPA.

i love your hub, very detailed.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

thank you for the comment dwachira! glad to meet you as well.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Hi Michele..wow, its great to see you here. Thank you so much!


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Hi Eric! Thank you for reading.. yes, wished we could go back. since plastic is lighter than glass container and not easily be broken, they have to choose plastics. but now, im just cautious of using plastic especially plastic bottles for water.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Thank you Mhatter! Glad you stopped by.


kj force profile image

kj force 4 years ago from Florida

unknownspy..I did a hub on Phthalates, which is the chemical used in many plastics.In the research it has been determined exposure is linked to early puberty in girls and male infants have been born with deformed gentalia ( mothers exposed during pregnancy).The chemical is supposedly NOT used in either water or soda bottles..Thank you for also bringing it to public attention.....


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Thank you Kj.. will be sharing this hub of yours. Thanks for stopping by!


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 4 years ago from Central Florida

Glad you liked it, unknown. It's now linked to this one. Many of us really have no idea how we're literally poisoning our bodies and subsequently, the bodies of our children!


wwolfs 4 years ago

Nice hub and great information. I had no idea about the different numbers on any of the plastic bottles. I will be checking them from now on. Thank you for sharing this very important information.

Voted up and useful!


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Bravewarrior, thank you so much. I will link your hub too and KJ force as well, for better understanding of the chemicals found in plastics.

Wwolfs..thank you, yes, make sure that you do not re-use the #s 3 6 and 7, it's very bad on our health.


kelleyward 4 years ago

I really appreciate this hub because I'm always forgetting which plastics are safe. Bookmarking this for future reference. Voted up and useful and shared! Take care, Kelley


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

I had absolutely no idea regarding the numbers. Just knew that reusing plastic was unsafe.

Thanks for sharing. voted up and useful. Shared all over.


Robert Erich profile image

Robert Erich 4 years ago from California

Very helpful tips and warnings. Thanks for explaining what those numbers actually mean. I had no idea at all!


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Thank you so much Kelly! I really really appreciate this.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Thank you so much Rajan.. you can check the number if you happen to have a bottle.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Thank you so much Robert. Im glad that I've shared this piece of info!


Pamela N Red profile image

Pamela N Red 4 years ago from Oklahoma

Someone mentioned why we don't go back to glass; glass is heavier and of course breakable and not very safe for children to use. It also costs more to recycle glass than it does to make new from sand.

Not everyone realizes that canned foods are stored in tin lined with plastic which has been found to leach into the product.


Man from Modesto profile image

Man from Modesto 4 years ago from Kiev, Ukraine (formerly Modesto, California)

I have read that no matter how many times the plastic is used, it continues to leak the same amount of toxin. Except after washing in a dishwaher- it is much, much worse then.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Thank you for this additional info Pamela!


Man from Modesto profile image

Man from Modesto 4 years ago from Kiev, Ukraine (formerly Modesto, California)

Seven years ago, I was one of three who met regularly to pray into the night. We had so much prophecy then! I recall how one of the others turned to me in the middle of all that prayer and said,

"One day they will come out and say plastic is poisonous."


naimishika profile image

naimishika 4 years ago from India

Horrible. I was just gone to check the water bottle of my child. It is fortunately 1.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Hello Man from Modesto and Naimishika. Nice meeting you here in HP.

Thank you for stopping by. We have to be aware of these chemicals especially when our kids/child is using it.


Turtlewoman profile image

Turtlewoman 4 years ago from California

Thank you for writing this informative hub. I hope it will reach more people as it's such an important health-related concern. I stopped buying plastic water bottles years ago. I've installed a water filtration system...a bit expensive but well worth it. Voted up and shared.:-)


I Am Rosa profile image

I Am Rosa 4 years ago from Canada

... :-( I was hoping for a more detailed hub. You've provided basics which can be found just about anywhere, but missed the important info: What do those numbers mean in terms of what is safe to use/reuse for food and drink. IE. did you know that the reason experts suggest you don't reuse plastic drinking bottles (water, Gatorade, etc.) has nothing to do with the chemicals used to make the bottle?


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 4 years ago from Central Florida

I Am Rosa, click on the link spy has provided in one of the above comments to get more detail on plastics, BPA specifically.


I Am Rosa profile image

I Am Rosa 4 years ago from Canada

Thank you, BraveWarrior. I will check it out, however I shouldn't have to when the title that promises "The Truth about Plastics". Maybe "A Guide to Plastic Recycle Codes" would be a better title for this article.

This is in now way a bash on Spy or her work overall. I very much enjoyed her hub on situational depression and still giggling from "Sentences under Construction". So, I expected the same level of information and quality that she had for those article to be in this one as well.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Thank you Rosa, Bravewarrior.

I've put a link about BPA and Phthalates, its dangers and info at the bottom of the Plastic Coding System on my hub.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Turtle Woman, thank you for reading and for the shared. I appreciate it very much.


jpcmc profile image

jpcmc 4 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

I never really paid much attention to these markings before. Good thing you wrote this hub. Voted up and shared.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Yeah me too.. I thought that number only represents how many times that bottle will be recycled. I was wrong..it represents what chemical they used to create that bottle.


jpcmc profile image

jpcmc 4 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

Just checked the bottles at home. Not that I'm paranoid, but being safe is better.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Oh my God! JPcmc, you're perfect!

and i'm the one who wrote, don't use the #7! your comment made me check my starbucks' tumbler, (im using it right now) and it says "7-other" inside the triangle symbol. And been using it since time immemorial!!!

How come I didn't think about this mug in the first place..i always thought of mineral water bottles only.

Thanks for the reminder :) My bad..


jpcmc profile image

jpcmc 4 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

I even checked the milk bottles of my daughter. Good thing they're baby friendly. :)


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Thanks... We should be very careful especially if the one using it is our little kids. I guess, I'd stop using bottles/plastics with these numbers. I'll include it on my next update :)


Lot Rillera profile image

Lot Rillera 4 years ago from Philippines

this hubs is so imformative spy. one of my officemate told me about it and i don't even mind what's that number coding in the plastics we used, but with your illustration in this hub, it made me understand what's to re-use or not. thanks so much for this. I am so impressed with this hubs ! you're really a good writer and I am a big fan of yours,,,,, thanks. Lot


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Lot, thank you so much for the messages. Really, I've used my tumbler for years and i don't even know that its number 7, the kind of plastic that has BPA in it.


snowdrops profile image

snowdrops 4 years ago from The Second Star to the Right

Wow, I see that you have updated this hub to a more and understandable concept about the numbers behind the plastic triangle symbol. Great!


I Am Rosa profile image

I Am Rosa 4 years ago from Canada

Excellent edit, Spy!! Fantastic information. Thank you :-) I will bookmark this hub for future reference and share. Voted up, interesting and useful!


I Am Rosa profile image

I Am Rosa 4 years ago from Canada

My pleasure! Keep up the great work :-D


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Ms Rosa, thank you. I am so much grateful for your earlier suggestions and really, you're right. The previous one was not that clear and with much information about these numbers. Thanks for stopping by!

Thanks too Snowdrops :)


John 4 years ago

I like your article. Very much useful.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

John, thank you so much!


Sueswan 4 years ago

Hi Uknown Spy

Thank your for sharing this valuable information on plastics with us. Plastic water bottles should be banned.

I checked the plastic containers I store my lunch in. They are a number 5.

Voted up and awesome

Have a wonderful day. :)


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Hi Sueswan, Oh thank you so much for stopping by. I also stopped recycling plastic bottles for food stuff.. i think maybe alternatives will do.

Thank you!


Deborah Brooks profile image

Deborah Brooks 4 years ago from Brownsville,TX

Wow what a great hub...i hate plastic...i look for glass products but its is hard..thank you writing this great hub..debbie


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Thank you so much DEbbie!


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

Awesome hub! I always wondered what that numbers stood for, but I never bothered to research them. Thank you for doing that for me. I appreciate it. I have said "it taste like plastic" before. Ewwww!


iamaudraleigh 4 years ago

A great hub that is useful at work! Vuted up!


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Sunshine and iamaudraleigh, thank you so much.. a bestfriend of mine sent me this codes before. I thought that the number represents how many times this plastic can be recycled.. gosh i was wrong..


Ausemade profile image

Ausemade 4 years ago from Australia

All I can say is OMG... now I will be looking at the number on every plastic thing I have. I keep the plastic takeaway food containers for storing and freezing food in, but will stop doing that. Will stop recycling my water bottles too. I have already switched to natural toothpaste and mouthwash from those brand name toothpaste and mouthwash because of the chemical content. Good hub, I have even posted it to my Pinterest board http://pinterest.com/ausemade/natural-and-organic/


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Wow! This is very very amazing! Thank you for pinning this one. Some people really don't mind the numbers they see at then bottom but then, it is very important that we know so we'll be aware of its effects on our health.

Thank you so much for stopping bu Ausemade.


Rosemarie 4 years ago

Thank you for the clarification on the number coding on plastics. I always wonder what these numbers are for but it makes sense now.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Hi Rosemarie, thank you too for reading. Have a nice day!


Tiffers79 profile image

Tiffers79 4 years ago from Olathe KS (Kansas City Metro Area)

This is good information! I'm big on recycling and always wondered what the number meant. We use a lot of the BPA free cups and invested in a watercooler dispenser at home to cut down on our use of water bottles.


midget38 profile image

midget38 4 years ago from Singapore

I can imagine the disaster when plastics melt. This is an incredible hub, Myz, well researched and written!!. I share this.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

thank you thank you sooo much Michelle.

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