Have you ever taken a closer look at the bottom of your plastic bottles and notice a recycling symbol with a number in the middle?
Known as the Plastic/Resin Identification Codes (PIC), each number represents a type of plastic polymer group (there are 7 in total) and it’s intended to facilitate the sorting of plastics for recycling.
Read on to find out what each plastic identification code mean and represents!
1. Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET or PETE)
Uses & properties of PET
The 1st plastic identification code is polyethylene terephthalate or also known as PET or PETE. Due to its strength and toughness, these plastics are commonly used in:
- Water & beverages bottles
- Salad dressing bottles
- Peanut butter jars
Safe usage of PET plastics
While it might seem like a waste to throw these bottles out (especially if they have really cute designs), you should refrain from reusing it. PET plastic bottles are safe for one-time use and using it for a prolonged period may release harmful chemicals.
Are PET plastics recyclable?
Once you’re done with the bottle, always rinse it before throwing it in our recycling bins. Recycled PET can be made into new products such as:
- Fabric for t-shirts
- Sweaters and fiberfill for sleeping bags and winter coats
- New PET containers
Also check out on StyleMag: 9 Eco-friendly Habits To Cultivate As A Singaporean Homeowner
2. High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
Uses & properties of HDPE
The 2nd plastic identification code is known as high-density polyethylene or HDPE and it’s commonly found in your household. Due to its toughness and resistance against chemicals, HDPE plastic is used for various household products such as:
- Laundry detergent
- Milk & juice bottles
- Yogurt tubs
- Shampoo & conditioner bottles
Safe usage of HDPE plastics
HDPE plastics are generally considered safe. However, it is not advisable not to reuse it for food storage as chemicals might leak after a prolonged period of time.
Are HDPE plastics recyclable?
HDPE plastics can be recycled at least 10 times, so just empty it and rinse out the bottles before you dispose of it into recycling chutes or the blue recycling bins at your void decks.
Clear HDPE plastics are recycled into:
- New containers
Coloured HDPE plastics are recycled into:
3. Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
Uses & properties of PVC
The 3rd plastic identification code is Polyvinyl Chloride or PVC. A lightweight and rigid material, PVC is used in many domestic and industrial products:
- Cling films
- Shower curtains
- Indoor plumbing
- Juice bottles
- Cooking oil
Safe usage of PVC plastics
As PVC has poor heat stability, avoid heating your food with PVC cling wrap as the heat would cause hydrogen chloride fumes to be released, which could irritate your lungs.
Refrain from buying toys made out of PVC for your children as its harmful chemicals might leach out especially when they put the toys in their mouths.
One of the toxins that might leach out is phthalates – it poses a lot of health risks, especially if you have children at home. This toxin poses health risks such as cancer, birth defects and liver problems.
Are PVC plastics recyclable?
PVC plastics are the hardest to recycle as it needs to be separated from other plastics when recycling due to the high chlorine content in the material.
However, when it’s recycled, it can be repurposed into new items:
- Traffic cones
- Electrical boxes & cables
4. Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE)
Uses & properties of LDPE
The 4th plastic identification code is Low-Density Polyethylene or LDPE. With its flexibility and plasticity, LDPE is popular among packaging and pipes and fitting industries. This plastic is used for:
- Plastic bags
- Squeeze bottles (e.g. mustard bottles)
- Cling wraps
- Water pipes
Safe usage of LDPE plastics
LDPE plastics are safe to reuse, just ensure that you don’t exceed the maximum temperature – 120ºC for food containers that are FDA approved – as to avoid melting the plastic.
Are LDPE plastics recyclable?
Unfortunately, LDPE plastics are not recyclable. Plastic bags often get tangled in the recycling machinery which can cause damage to the equipment in the long run.
Instead, you can reuse LDPE plastic products until it’s unusable, for example, using plastic bags you get from grocery stores as trash bin liners.
However, some LDPE plastics are accepted in our local recycling bins:
- Bubble wrap
- Bread bag
5. Polypropylene (PP)
Uses & properties of PP
The 5th plastic identification code is Polypropylene or PP. This plastic is lightweight, strong, heat resistant and it provides a good barrier against moisture, grease, and chemicals. It is commonly used for:
- Reusable microwavable food storage containers
- Yogurt containers
- Disposable cups & plates
Safe usage of PP plastics
As compared to the rest of the plastic, PP plastic is considered safe by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be used as food storage containers. They do not leach any toxic chemicals, hence you can safely reuse or repurpose these containers for future use.
Check out our lunch boxes made from PP plastic!
Are PP plastics recyclable?
After prolonged usage, reusable plastics food containers are subjected to wear and tear. If any cracks or abrasions occur, replace them. For PP plastics, you can toss them into our local recycling bins. Just make sure to empty and rinse it before disposing of it to avoid contamination.
PP plastics can be recycled into:
- Battery cables
- Clothing fibres
6. Polystyrene (PS)
Uses & properties of PS
The 6th plastic identification code is polystyrene or PS. There are several types of polystyrene but we’ll be looking at the types used for food.
PS can exist as hard and solid plastic which is usually used in making yoghurt or margarine containers. PS can also exist as a foam material called expanded polystyrene (EPS) or styrofoam.
As EPS is versatile and lightweight, it is frequently used in the foodservice industry as it keeps your food warm and fresh for a longer time and it cost lesser than other alternatives. Some other uses of it are:
- Egg cartons
- Disposable cups/plates
- Disposable takeaway containers
- Loose fill packing foam for shipping
Safe usage of PS plastics
PS packaging is deemed safe to use in food contact by the FDA. However, if you want to heat your food in the styrofoam (EPS) packaging, ensure that there is a microwave-safe symbol.
This is important because when in contact with heat, styrofoam may leach styrene – a toxin that can pose health risks such as affecting the reproductive system, respiratory effects and cancer.
If you’re concerned about it, you can transfer your food onto a microwave-safe plate before heating it in the microwave.
Psst! Check out our Stockholm Dinnerware Series for beautiful dinnerware that is microwave and dishwasher safe!
Are PS plastics recyclable?
Our local recycling bins do accept PS plastic bottles and containers into the recycling bin, just empty it and rinse when necessary. However, they do not accept styrofoam (EPS) into the recycling bins. Instead, dispose of those as general waste.
Uses & properties of other plastics
The 7th plastic identification code is a catch-all for the other types of plastic that don’t fit into any of the aforementioned categories. Plastics such as Tritan, polycarbonate and the new bio-plastic fall under this category. Bisphenol A (BPA) is an industrial chemical that is used to make certain plastics like polycarbonate.
Examples of items made from plastic #7:
- Beverage bottles
- Baby milk bottles
- Sports equipment
- CDs & DVDs
Safe usage of #7 plastics
While some plastic like polycarbonate contains BPA, it doesn’t mean all #7 plastics contain BPA and are unsafe to use. Plastics like Tritan aren’t manufactured with BPA and are approved by the FDA for safe food and beverage contact after multiple testings.
Don’t have the misconception that plastic identification codes mean the safety of the plastic product. These codes are meant to help you sort through your plastics when recycling – whether or not the item can be tossed into the recycling bin.
So now when you’re out buying baby milk bottles and notice a number 7 sign, just keep a lookout for the “BPA-free” sign. If you’re unsure, be cautious of the products labelled 7 without the BPA-free tag.
Are #7 plastics recyclable?
Unfortunately, plastic #7 is not accepted in our blue recycling bins at the void deck. You would need to find specialised recycling centres that accept these plastics for recycling.
9. Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS)
Uses & properties of other plastics
The 9th and last plastic identification code is called Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene or ABS. This plastic is known for its strong impact resistance and high heat resistance, so it’s perfect for items like:
- Pipe fittings
- Lego toys
- Computer keyboard
- Power tool housing
Safe usage of ABS plastics
ABS plastic has been considered safe to use for food according to the FDA. This plastic is considered relatively harmless to us as there aren’t any known carcinogens found and it doesn’t leach any chemicals.
Just so you know! Our Staples & Snacks Airtight Food Container are made of ABS and PMMA plastic which is toxic-free.
Are ABS plastics recyclable?
ABS plastics are recyclable, however not in our local blue recycling bins. You would have to visit specialised recycling centres to recycle your items.
If you’re looking to recycle your IT accessories like keyboard and mouse, you can dispose of them at specific E-waste collection points.
Do look around your home for disposable plastics and rinse them before recycling to prevent contamination. You can then sort it out with our Triple Compartments Trash Recycling Bin With Wheels before recycling them.
To find out more information on what can or cannot be recycled in the blue recycling bins, check out NEA’s list of recyclable items here.
If you’re looking for plastic alternatives, consider glass, wheat straw and silicone.
For easy reference, here’s a rundown of all the plastic identification codes and what they mean. Have this guide at your fingertips by pinning it to your Pinterest board!
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