Full guide to recycling codes | what the numbers mean | uses and how to recycle

In our first article we will explain what are the meanings behind the numbers

Have you thought about the meaning of the recycling codes you see every day? So after reading this article, you will finally understand these codes!

The first group - The plastics (1-7, ABS, PA)

The plastics group is the most interesting, there are many types of plastic that we call in one name: "Plastic", but every one of them has their particular qualities and characteristics.

The most you go up in the numbers from 1 to 7, the more the plastic is harder to recycle and more dangerous.

(There will be a tutorial soon about how to avoid toxic plastics and plastics in general)

All sorts of plastic

  • Symbol of recycling code 1 PET or PETE - Polyethylene terephthalate 🟠
PET(E) is the most common thermoplastic polymer, used for synthetic fibres ±60%, with bottle production accounting for about ±30% of global demand. Polyester makes up about 18% of world polymer production and is the fourth-most-produced polymer.

The number 1 PET(E) plastic is common in polyester fibres, soft drink bottles, food containers and plastic bottles.

PET is completely recyclable. More than 680  million kilograms (1.5 billion pounds) of used PET bottles and containers are recovered in the United States each year for recycling.

All of the recycling services recycle PET(A) plastic.
  • Symbol of recycling code 2 PEHD or HDPE - High-density polyethylene 🟢
PEHD (HDPE) is a thermoplastic polymer produced from the monomer ethylene. He has high strength-to-density ratio and density of .94-.96, which making him float on water.

The number 2 PEHD (HDPE) plastic is common in plastic milk containers, plastic bags, bottle caps, trash cans, oil cans, plastic lumber, toolboxes and supplement containers.

PEHD is recyclable. According to the EPA, recycling 10 plastic bottles saves enough energy to power a laptop for over 25 hours. Can you imagine how much energy your facility can preserve by engaging in HDPE recycling?

All of the recycling services recycle PEHD plastic.

  • Symbol of recycling code 3 PVC - Polyvinyl chloride 🔴
PVC is the world's third-most widely produced synthetic plastic polymer. About 40 million tons of PVC are produced each year. PVC comes in two basic forms: rigid (RPVC) and flexible. Most of the pipes are made from it.

The number 3 PVC plastic is common in plumbing pipes, window frames, bottles for chemicals and flooring.

PVC is one of the toxic plastics that you should avoid.

PVC is very difficult to recycle, and as a result, very little of it is collected and processed in recycling facilities. Made from many different formulations composed of various additives, PVC products cannot easily be separated for recycling, which makes breaking vinyl products down into their original components nearly impossible.

  • Symbol of recycling code 4 PELD or LDPE - Low-density polyethylene 🟢
PELD (LDPE) is a thermoplastic made from the monomer ethylene.

The number 4 PELD (LDPE) plastic is common in plastic bags, zip lock bags, buckets, squeeze bottles, plastic tubes and chopping boards.

PELD (LDPE) is fully recyclable.

Not all the recycling services recycle PELD plastic.

  • Symbol of recycling code 5 PP - Polypropylene 🟢
PP is a thermoplastic polymer used in a wide variety of products. it's often used in packaging and labeling.

The number 5 PP plastic is common in flower pots, bumpers, car interior trim, industrial fibres, carry-out beverage cups, microwavable food containers and DVD keep cases.

PP is fully recyclable.

Most of the recycling services not recycling PP plastic.
  • Symbol of recycling code 6 PS - Polystyrene 🔴
PS is a synthetic aromatic hydrocarbon polymer made from the monomer styrene.

The number 6 PS plastic is common in toys, video cassettes, ashtrays, trunks, beverage/food coolers, beer cups, wine and champagne cups, carry-out food containers and Styrofoam.

PS is the second of the toxic plastics that you should avoid.

Recycling PS plastic is less common than some other types, but it can be recycled.

Most of the recycling services not recycling PP plastic.
  • Symbol of recycling code 7 O (OTHER) - All other plastics 🟠
This type of plastics is a mystery one, it can be a nontoxic one, but it can also be toxic and hard to recycle. or it can be a mix of plastics. This one is a mystery box, you don't know what you get from it. To avoid that, don't use or buy products that are made from plastic-type 7 or that doesn't have a recycling code on it.
  • Symbol of recycling code ABS ABS - Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene 🟢
ABS is a common thermoplastic polymer. ABS is most popular in 3d printers.

The ABS plastic is common in monitor/TV cases, coffee makers, cell phones, calculators, most computer plastic, Lego bricks, most FFF 3D printed parts that are not bioplastic such as PLA.

ABS is fully recyclable.

Most of the recycling services not recycling ABS plastic.
  • Symbol of recycling code PA PA - Polyamide 🟢
A polyamide is a macromolecule with repeating units linked by amide bonds.[1]

Polyamides occur both naturally and artificially. Examples of naturally occurring polyamides are proteins, such as wool and silk.

The PA plastic is common in nylon like toothbrush bristles, socks and stockings.

Is PA fully recyclable - N/A

Is recycling services recycling PA plastic - N/A

The second group - The batteries (8-14)

The numbers from 8 to 14 are all batteries, here are some small examples of where you can find all of them. Please contact your local recycler to know what batteries they are recycling

Rechargeable batteries.
  • Symbol of recycling code 12 Li - Lithium battery

    Most common in everyday devices like cell phone batteries, computer batteries and camera batteries

    - Symbol of recycling code 13 SO(Z) - Silver-oxide battery

    Most common in small devices where you need to save space.

    - 14 - CZ - Zinc–carbon battery

    Most common in flashlight batteries.

The third group - The papers (20-22)

There's not much to talk about paper, there only 3 types of paper:

  • Symbol of recycling code 20 20 - Corrugated fiberboard or in other words cardboard, most common in cardboard boxes.

    - Symbol of recycling code 21 21 - Non-corrugated fiberboard or in other words paperboard, most common in cereal and snack boxes, but also medicaments.

    - Symbol of recycling code 22 22 - Paper, most common in a newspaper, books, magazines, wrapping paper, wallpaper, paper bags, and paper straws, a great alternative to plastic straws.

The fourth group - The metals (40-41)

There are two types of metal: the first one is strong, this is the "Steel", used in food cans. The second one is more flexible, used for soft drink cans and deodorant cans.

  • Symbol of recycling code 40 FE - Steel

    - Symbol of recycling code 41

    Symbol of recycling code 41 ALU - Aluminium

    Here are some facts about aluminium:

- Aluminium cans can be recycled and put back onto the shelf at your local grocery store in just about 2 months.
- Recycling aluminium can help to save a great deal of energy enough to power your laptop for about 25 hours!
- You can recycle aluminium over and over again, and there is no limit to it.
- If you throw away your aluminium cans, they can stay in that can form for up to 500 years or more- so recycling is the way to go.

Fifth group - The biomatter/organic (50-51, 60-69)

This group is only made from organic or biomatter material. Most of them can be recycled or composed.

  • Symbol of recycling code 50 FOR - Wood

    - Symbol of recycling code 51 FOR - Cork, most common in bottle stoppers, place mats and construction material.

    - Symbol of recycling code 60 COT - Cotton, most common in towels, t-shirts, cotton buds/swabs and cotton pads.

    - Symbol of recycling code 61 TEX - Jute, most common in clothing industry.

    - 62-69 TEX - Other Textiles

Sixth group - The glasses (70-79)

Green glass used in beer bottle

  • Symbol of recycling code 70 GL - Clear Glass, used in jars.

    - Symbol of recycling code 71 GL - Green Glass, used in a wine glass.

    - Symbol of recycling code 72 GL - Brown Glass, used in beers.

    - Symbol of recycling code 73 GL - Dark Sort Glass.

    - Symbol of recycling code 74 GL - Light Sort Glass.

    - Symbol of recycling code 75 GL - Light Leaded Glass, used in televisions, high-end electronics display glass-like in calculators.

    - Symbol of recycling code 76 GL - Leaded Glass, used in older televisions, ashtrays and older beverage holders.

    - Symbol of recycling code 77 GL - Copper Mixed/Copper Backed Glass, used in electronics, LCD heads, clocks and watches.

    - Symbol of recycling code 78 GL - Silver Mixed/Silver Backed Glass, used in mirrors.

    - Symbol of recycling code 79 GL - Gold Mixed/Gold-Backed Glass, used in computer glass.

Seventh group - The composites (80-99)

  • Symbol of recycling code 81 PapPet - Paper + Plastic, used in consumer packaging, pet food bags, cold store grocery bags, Icecream containers, cardboard cans and disposable plates.

    - 82 - Paper and fibreboard/Aluminium.

    - 83 - Paper and fibreboard/Tinplate

    - Symbol of recycling code 84 C/PAP (or PapAl) - Paper and cardboard/plastic/aluminium, used in many products like liquid storage containers, juice boxes, cardboard cans, cigarette pack liners, gum wrappers, cartridge shells for blanks, fireworks colouring material and Tetra Brik.

    - 85 - Paper and fibreboard/Plastic/Aluminium/Tinplate.

    - Symbol of recycling code 87 CSL (Card-Stock Laminate) - Biodegradable plastic, used in laminating material, special occasion cards, bookmarks, business cards, flyers/advertising, also used in biodegradable bags in grocery shops.

    - Symbol of recycling code 90 90 - Plastics/Aluminium, used in plastic toothpaste tubes and some vacuum-packed coffee bags.

    - Symbol of recycling code 91 91 - Plastic/Tinplate

    - 92 - Plastic/Miscellaneous metals

    - 95 - Glass/Plastic

    - 96 - Glass/Aluminium

    - 97 - Glass/Tinplate

    - 98 - Glass/Miscellaneous metals


Know what the recycling codes on products mean is very important as a first step to becoming greener, hope you liked this article. Meets in the next article.