'What do I do with all this plastic packaging?'
HOME & GARDEN | September 5, 2011

'What do I do with all this plastic packaging?'

Do you ever find yourself confused by all the different types of plastics? Do you wonder which you can recycle and which you can't? Mixed plastic recycling is expected to be widespread within the next five years in the UK, but in the meantime we'll all need to do our bit by sorting our plastics for recycling. To help you make sense of it all, here's our run down on the different plastics based on their recycling codes:



Number 1 Plastics
PET or PETE (polyethylene terephthalate) 
Used for: Fizzy drink and water bottles; cooking oil bottles; fruit containers; food trays for ready meals; textile fibres (polyester).
Recycling info: PET bottles are collected by 92% of council recycling programmes in the UK. Other forms of PET such as food trays and berry containers can be recycled, but aren't necessarily included in bottle collections by all councils due to sorting issues.
What can PET be recycled into? Polar fleece, carpets, strappings, furniture, carpet.  New technology allows PET to be recycled into new food packaging.

Number 2 Plastics 
HDPE (high density polyethylene) 
Used for: Milk bottles; shampoo bottles; margarine and yogurt tubs; household cleaning bottles; some rubbish and shopping bags; car oil bottles; cereal box liners
Recycling info: HDPE bottles are collected by 92% of council recycling programmes in the UK. Other forms of HDPE such as tubs can be recycled, but aren't necessarily included in bottle collections by all councils due to sorting issues.  
What can HDPE be recycled into? HDPE is readily recyclable into many goods: garden furniture and fencing, litter and recycling bins, pipes, detergent bottles, oil bottles, pens and floor tiles.
 

Number 3 Plastics
V (Vinyl) or PVC 
Used for: Window frames; drainage pipes; shower curtains; clothing; toys; large squash, cooking oil and shampoo bottles; window cleaner and detergent bottles; clear food packaging; wire insulation; medical equipment
Recycling info: Rarely recycled, though accepted by some plastic lumber makers. PVC use in packaging is on the wane due to this.
What can PVC be recycled into? Plastic decking and garden furniture, vehicle mudflaps, flooring, cables, speed bumps, matting



Number 4 Plastics 
LDPE (low density polyethylene) 
Used for: Carrier bags; squeezy bottles; can link packaging; bread and frozen food packaging; lining or laminating cardboard containers such as TetraPaks; clothing; furniture; carpet 
Recycling info: Many supermarkets now accept plastic bags for recycling. Other LDPE is not often recycled through council recycling programmes, although some recycling centres will accept it where they have begun mixed plastics recycling.
What can LDPE be recycled into? Bin liners, litter, compost and recycling bins, plastic lumber, floor tiles

Number 5 Plastics 
PP (polypropylene) 
Used for: Soup pots; margarine tubs; bottle tops; waterproof clothing; carrier bags; some yogurt pots; sauce bottles; drinking straws; medicine bottles
Recycling info: PP is not generally recycled through council recycling programmes, although some recycling centres will accept it where they have begun mixed plastics recycling.
What can PP be recycled into? Traffic lights, brooms and brushes, car battery casings, ice scrapers, landscape borders, bicycle racks, rakes, bins, pallets, trays

Number 6 Plastics 
PS (polystyrene) 
Used for: Takeaway boxes and cups; packaging; meat and vegetable trays; egg cartons; CD cases 
Recycling info: Number 6 plastics are not generally recycled through council recycling programmes at present, except in places where mixed plastics recycling has started.
What can PS be recycled into? Foam packing materials, insulation, stationery products, light switch plates, egg cartons, vents



Number 7 Plastics 
O (other)
Used for: Large water carriers; sunglasses; computer casings; 'bullet-proof' materials; nylon; signs and displays; some food containers 
Recycling info: Plastics that don't fit into the previous categories are all lumped into code 7 together. Some of these are even compostable (polyactide) - in which case it will be clearly marked.
What can O plastics be recycled into? Plastic lumber, custom-made items, compost!


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