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Plastic Bottle Numbers: What do they Mean?

Updated on April 19, 2011

You've Seen Them for Years, But What's the Deal?

The numbers with the recycling symbol around them on the bottom of plastic bottles are part of the resin identification coding system made by the Society of Plastics Industry. Each number simply tells you what kind of plastic that bottle is made out of. Different numbered bottles are recycled for different uses.

#1 Pet or Pete

Polyethylene terephthanalate, or PET, is usually a clear plastic that is one of the most widely used and most versatile plastics, both in terms of initial use and secondary use after recycled. You'll find #1 plastics on juice bottles, soda bottles, water bottles, and many other items. If you recycle your personal plastics, this bin will often fill up first.

What do they do with #1 plastics once they've been handed over? They are recycled into soft drink bottles and many polyester fibre products. PET plastics are compressed, shredded and sorted, then these flakes are used to make new plastics. According to Wikipedia, "worldwide, approximately 1.5 million tons of PET are collected per year."

#2 Plastics: HDPE

High density polyethylene, the #2 plastics, are commonly used for containers like milk jugs, tyvek, plastic bags, folding chairs and other materials. For the most part, it's a soft plastic. This type of plastic is often recycled to make items like plastic bags, recycling bins, and bottles.

Plastics 3-7

If you're a frequent at recycling centers, these bins are much less full and are not as common as the #1 and #2 plastics. Types 3-7 plastics range from shower curtains to packing peanuts, and all have different rules that must be followed to recycle each one. Since they're made from different materials that may be harmful to consume, these plastics must be separated from the #1's and #2's. If you're curbside pickup won't accept these plastics, you can bring them to your local recycling center to recycle.

A Recycling Poll...

How much of your plastic do you recycle?

See results

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      kathryn 7 years ago

      can i refill any of the bottles--like #1 and #2 plastics-- for use and if so, with what parameters, if any ?

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      jeannette 7 years ago

      this is an important comment they say we are not supposed to leave water bottles in a hot car.. I want to know where theses water bottles have been before they get to me a dn another question i belongf to jenny craig the dishes we miceo are no i but what happens when they get heated up i cant seem to find theses answers i have had breast cancer and have always used plastic in micio

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      Kat 6 years ago

      One of the most useful postings on practical everyday recycle,reuse, reduce-needs to be a daily habit for all- yin being responsible to our Earth's valuable resources. I especially like looking up by zip code anyone can find recycle/collection locations for old tv's, glass and such.

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      the awesome-nator 6 years ago

      awesome

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      patrick 6 years ago

      the poll should include "i don't recycle plastic because my city/town does not give me that option". please stop assuming that adequate recycling centers/drop-offs are in every town. many areas just don't offer it. especially small towns.

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      steve 4 years ago

      the poll should include a "i don't recycle any plastics cause i don't care".

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