Plastic Types are conveyed through small symbols on product packaging and plastic products. But what do these symbols mean? Let us decode them together.
Plastic was the world’s greatest invention. It was used as a replacement for glass in many circumstances, resulting in widespread use for bottles. But today, plastics have become the world’s biggest problem. Plastics have made their way to every corner of the planet. It would be a miracle if we witness one single day without plastic.
Considering the huge amount of plastic produced, the first way to keep it away from landfills and our beloved oceans is recycling. For many conscious consumers, their sustainability journey begins with recycling.
Recycling seems like the easiest way ou. So let us dig deeper into the recycling process.
The process of recovering waste or scrap plastic and turning the materials into functional and useful goods is known as plastic recycling. The purpose of plastic recycling is to eliminate excessive levels of plastic pollution and reduce the demand for virgin resources to make new plastic items. This method conserves resources and keeps plastic out of landfills and unanticipated locations like the ocean.
But why do we need to recycle plastic? Plastic is a lightweight, durable and easily moveable material. All these properties make it an attractive material to make products, objects and packaging other goods. This is why we live in a world full of plastics.
While plastic may be a convenient option, it is not a completely environment-friendly product. It takes 1000 years for plastic to decompose. Thus, any plastic product will remain longer than our time on earth. It is due to this nature that finding options to reuse and repurpose plastic becomes essential and how plastic recycling comes into the picture.
So, Can all Types of Plastic be Recycled?
No, not all plastics are recyclable. The ability of plastic to get recycled depends on its type. This is where the numbers on plastic products come into play. These numbers are Resin Identification Codes. They let us know what the product is made up of, help identify the type of plastic and on that basis, we can find out if it’s recyclable or not.
Plastic Types 1-7
There are 7 types of plastics commonly found. These can be identified using the number written inside the mobs loop and sometimes may have a set of letters written below them. The numbers are key to know which plastic is recyclable and which is not.
1. Polyethylene terephthalate (PETE or PET)
- PET plastic is most commonly used for drink bottles, bread-spread containers, etc.
- It is easily recyclable.
- However, PET bottles are not ideal to reuse as a drink bottle. They have a bacteria trapping surface. Instead, upcycle it in every way possible. The PET bottles work best for making bio-enzymes.
2. High-density polyethylene (HDPE or PE-HD)
- HDPE plastic is slightly harder and is thus used for detergent and shampoo bottles, oil cans, etc.
- It is easily recyclable and can be recycled upto 10 times.
3. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC or V)
- PVC plastic is used to make pipes, window profile, shower curtains, non-food bottles, children’s toys etc.
- It is the least recyclable plastic type.
- It is harmful when burned or landfilled however has a long lifespan (up to 50 years)
4. Low-density polyethylene (LDPE or PE-LD)
- LDPE is a soft, flexible plastic and is thus used in grocery bags, bin liners, bread bags, milk pouches, cream tubes etc.
- This type of plastic is NOT accepted by all recycling facilities, thus making it hard to recycle.
- The best way to deal with is to refuse and work with plastic-free alternatives.
5. Polypropylene (PP)
- PP plastic is found in bottle caps, straws, packaging tape. Since this plastic is heat resistant, majority microwave friendly plastics are made of PP.
- Difficult and complex process to recycle PP plastic.
- Using glass containers for microwave and other plastic-free alternatives like metal straws, paper tapes can be used.
6. Polystyrene (PS)
- PS plastic is also know as Styrofoam products. It is used in single use coffee cups, takeaway food containers, disposable cutlery, ashtrays, etc.
- Not recycled by all recycling units mostly because it is contaminated with food.
- Prefer avoiding PS plastic when you can.
7. Others (Other or O)
- The final category is all the remaining types of plastic. This includes Polylactic Acid (PLA) – a bioplastic and also include non-biodegradable plastics like acrylic, nylon, polycarbonate.
- These are used to make bottles, plastic lumber applications, headlight lenses, and safety shields/glasses.
- Number 7 plastics have not been traditionally recycled by recycling programs but you can check about them.
|Type of Plastic||Found in||Recyclable?|
|Number 1 – PET or Clear polyethylene terephthalate||Soft drink bottles, tote bags, containers||YES|
|Number 2 – HDPE or High Density Polyethylene||Detergent, shampoo bottles, oil cans||YES|
|Number 3 – PVC or Polyvinyl Chloride||Pipes, window frames, toys||NO|
|Number 4 – LDPE or Low Density Polyethylene||Grocery bags, bin liners, bread bags, milk pouches, cream tubes||NOT accepted at all facilities|
|Number 5 – PP or Polypropylene||Straws, tape, bottle cap, microwave containers||YES but difficult & complex process|
|Number 6 – PS or Polystyrene||Coffee cups, takeaway food containers, disposable cutlery,||NOT accepted at all facilities if contaminated|
|Number 7 – Other||Bottles, safety shields, headlight lens||NOT traditionally recycled|
Now that we know our plastic waste well, the question that arises is How to recycle ? Don’t worry we have got you covered.
Plastic Recycling Facilities in India
Our list covers the top recycling facilities in the major cities of the country. Feel free to add more in the comments section.
- Delhi NCR region – WasteWOW India, Eco Wise (in Greater Noida)
- Bengaluru – Eco Wise
- Mumbai- 5rCycle
- Chennai – Wasted, Trashman
- Pune – SWACH
- Gujarat – RecycleX
Alternatively, use this directory of Plastic recycling plants in the country with the contact details.
Plastic is the greatest concern of our time. Considering its flexibility to use and long durability, not all of us would be able to ditch it right away.
Moreover, the plastic industry employs millions of Indians. So, having our authorities on board for a ‘plastic ban’ can take time. But, we can’t let the mountains of trash grow each day. We can put the pressure on the waste management system and create minimum waste as possible.
Adopting practices like waste audits and waste segregation can help manage waste better. An approach of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle can help curb the plastic problem in our homes, localities, country and the world.
Plastic type 1 (PET) & 2 (HDPE) are the only types of Plastic that can be recycled easily. Remaining plastic types are hard to recycle & involve a complex process.
Vedantee is a student and an environmentalist associated with The Climate Reality Project to advocate and spread awareness about climate change. She is also a sustainability enthusiast who practices low waste lifestyle and shares her journey and climate action through her Instagram page That Trash Talker.