If you have ever looked at the symbols embossed on a plastic bottle or jar and been confused by the arrows moving in a trianglular direction, with a number and acronym, then we are here to help. The easy explanation is that the symbol indicates what type of plastic(s) the container was made from as well as helpfully indicating whether or not the plastic container can be recycled.
Don’t know one type of plastic from another? Never fear, we’ve got you covered there as well. See below and unlock the mystery!
Number 1: PET (PETE), or Polyethylene terephthalate. This is a commonly found, recyclable plastic that we see used in bottles and jars (such as peanut butter and honey). It is also used as a plastic fiber for materials like polyester. PET is one of the more frequently used plastics, and because of this, many recycling programs focus on this plastic exclusively.
Number 2: HDPE, or High Density Polyethylene. This heavier type of plastic is considered highly versatile by experts and is commonly used in butter tubs, milk jugs, and detergent packaging. Because of its strength, we also see its use in goods like hardhats and house wraps, or anything that should be extra durable. HDPE is also a plastic that is ideal for recycling programs.
Number 3: expressed by a ‘V’, Polyvinyl Chloride. V is often used in containers for fast food items. It can be found in both ‘rigid’ and flexible forms, and has become the prefered plastic for use in construction and plumbing products. V is also a good material for reprocessing.
Number 4: LDPE, or Low Density Polyethylene. This light-weight plastic is ideal for shrink wraps, types of storage wrapping, and is also used in grocery bags. It is prized for being flexible yet tough, and can be translucent or opaque. Unfortunately, a very low amount (under 6 percent) of LDPE products are recycled, according to the USA’s Environmental Protection Agency.
Number 5, expressed by ‘PP’, signifies the plastic Polypropylene. This plastic can be found in yogurt containers, as well as straws and bottle caps. Yet its versatility also makes it ideal for things like ropes, thermal underwear, and carpets. PP is the world’s second most used plastic.
Number 6 is the plastic Polystyrene. It is prized for its clarity, and as such is used in lab equipment and food packaging. When pumped with air and used as a foam, it is ideal as packaging, insulation, and cushioning, not to mention use in surfboards. It can be recycled, but should not come into contact with food products after recycling.
The term ‘Other’ will indicate that a mixture of plastics has been used.
We hope this has demystified the symbols found on plastic containers. Speaking of plastics, stop by the All in Packaging site to see some of our plastic containers, and if you have any questions about types of plastics, just ask.