This is a quick guide outlining the types of plastics and plastic products that can and cannot recycled.
We also outline how to find out the requirements of recycling plastic in your area you live in.
Types Of Plastic
There are different types of plastic (read about here), but then there are also products that contain plastic that are manufactured in different ways.
A plastic type might be recyclable, but because of the way a plastic product is manufactured, it might be hard to recycle or non recyclable – a sport drink bottle can be an example of this with 3 or 4 different types of plastic.
What Plastics Can, & Cannot Be Recycled?
It depends on the capability of the recycling system in your community, suburb or area.
Generally, you can check on the government/council/recycling organisation website about what you can or cannot put in the recycling bins provided (types of plastic products). Google ‘[your city or municipality name + recycling]’.
For example – in San Francisco – they list the plastics you can recycle at https://sfrecycles.org/
The City Of Melbourne also lists what you can put in your recycling bin at https://www.melbourne.vic.gov.au/residents/waste-recycling/Pages/what-goes-in-your-bins.aspx
Otherwise, you can ring the recycling collection organisation and ask them directly about specific plastics and types of plastic products, and how to clean or prepare them for putting in the recycling bin.
Note that this is municipal recycling – industrial/commercial recycling can be more specialised and obviously different.
In general, these might be the types of plastics that can and can’t be recycled in developed countries:
- LD, LDPE – non recyclable
- PP – sometimes recycled depending on local context
- PP&A Fibers – sometimes recycled depending on local context
- HDPE – widely recycled
- PET – widely recycled
- PS – non recyclable
- PUT – non recyclable
- PVC – sometimes recycled depending on local context
- Other polymer types – non recyclable
- PETE or PET – recyclable
- HDPE – recyclable
- PVC – sometimes recyclable
- LDPE – sometimes recyclable
- PP – not recyclable
- PS – not recyclable
- Other plastics like nylon and styrene – not recyclable
And in terms of plastic products:
- Plastic Bags – not recyclable
- Straws – not recyclable
- Coffee Cups – a special machine is needed to recycle them
- These items often can’t be recycled with hard plastics and other plastic items because of different issues like contamination, or the plastic gets stuck in recycling machinery
- But – some cities do offer services specific soft plastic recycling services. You can search online for them in your area
Examples Of The Above Plastics
You can google ‘Plastics 1-7 examples’ and it should come up with examples of the above plastics in tables for you.
We see Plastic #1 (PET), and Plastic #2 (HDPE) are some of the most widely recycled plastics.
Examples of these plastics are:
- Plastic #1 – Soft drink bottles and other hard plastic bottles, and other hard plastic containers and bottles
- Plastic #2 – Milk jugs, cleaner and shampoo bottles, and other stiff plastic bottles, jugs and containers
You can see examples of Plastics #3 to #7 that usually can’t be recycled or aren’t recycled widely at https://learn.eartheasy.com/articles/plastics-by-the-numbers/
You can look for the recycling code or symbol on the plastic product too.
What Can Different Plastics Be Recycled Into, or Repurposed For?