Plastic Recycling Symbols Explained With This Simple Guide

Have you ever turned a plastic bottle or container over to see the recycling symbol and found a number such as 7, 3 or 5 and had no idea what it meant?

I have too, which is why I have made this simple guide to recycling symbols so that you can recycle correctly and without confusion! 

Image sourced from Wikipedia

Recycling Symbol ♳

Plastics with recycling symbol ♳ are called PETE or PET plastics (Polyethylene Terephthalate.) They are picked up by most curb side recycling systems. It is usually clear and used to make plastic soda and water bottles, however can be used for many miscellaneous containers. 

What Can It Be Recycled Into?

  • tote bags
  • carpet
  • polar fleece
  • new containers
  • clothing
  • and much more
Image sourced from Recplas

Recycling Symbol ♴

Plastics with recycling symbol ♴ are called HDPE plastics (High Density Polyethylene.) Like PET plastics, HDPE plastics are picked up by most curb side recycling systems. Usually opaque, HDPE is found in milk jugs, cleaner bottles, shampoo bottles, cereal box liners, detergent bottles, yogurt tubs… the list goes on!

What Can It Be Recycled Into?

  • pens
  • recycling containers
  • picnic tables
  • milk and detergent bottles
  • buckets
  • and much more
PVC recycling
Image sourced from Materials Recycling World

Recycling Symbol ♵

Plastics with recycling symbol ♵ are called V or PVC plastics (Vinyl.) Not often, taken by curb side recycling systems, PVC is used to make cling wrap, toys and detergent bottles. It has been known to, and sometimes still does contain Phthalates and clorine is used in the manufacturing process. Stay away from PVC as much as possible and NEVER reheat food in a PVC takeaway container- it releases toxins!

What Can It Be Recycled Into?

  • vinyl flooring
  • speed bumps and roadway gutters
  • panelling
  • and much more
IDPE recycling
Image sourced from Phoenix Recycling Inc.

Recycling Symbol ♶

Plastics with recycling symbol ♶ are called LDPE plastics (Low Density Polyethylene.) LDPE plastics are not taken by curb side recycling programs. Squeeze bottles, shopping bags, clothing, carpet and bread bags are all made from LDPE. It is one of the only plastics considered safe. 

What Can It Be Recycled Into?

  • compost bins
  • trash can liners and cans
  • floor tiles
  • shipping envelopes 
  • and much more
PP plastic recycling
Image sourced from TradeKorea

Recycling Symbol ♷

Plastics with recycling symbol ♷ are called PP plastics (Polypropylene.) PP is one of the safer varieties of plastic. It is found in yogurt containers, ketchup bottles, syrup bottles, salad dressing bottles and medicine bottles. 

What Can It Be Recycled Into?

  • brooms
  • bins
  • ice scrapers
  • bicycle racks
  • and much more 

Recycling Symbol ♸

Plastics with recycling symbol ♸ are called PS plastics (Polystyrene.) Polystyrene is Styrofoam, which is notorious for being difficult to recycle, and thus, bad for the environment. This kind of plastic also poses a health risk, leaching potentially toxic chemicals, especially when heated. Most recycling programs won’t accept it. It is found in egg cartons, meat trays, and disposable plates and cups… no surprise there.

What Can It Be Recycled Into?

  • egg cartons
  • vents
  • foam packing
  • insulation
  • and much more

Recycling Symbol ♹ 

Plastics with recycling symbol ♹ all are miscellaneous and do not fit into the plastic symbol categories. It is found in sunglasses, phone cases, computer cases, nylon, water bottles and much more.

What Can It Be Recycled Into?

  • lumber 
  • children’s toys and bottles
  • and much more

Using These Symbols

Recycling Symbols are there for a reason. Plastic can be one of the most confusing materials to identify and recycle. Try and reduce your plastic consumption with these zero waste swap outs! Be aware that not all councils or recyclers accept every one of these plastics, look into your recycling programs and see what they accept. I hope this gives you a better understanding of plastic recycling identification and the symbols used. 


Founder + Blogger

Hey there! I'm Brodie, the passionate blogger behind Ethically Engaged. My mission is to find ethical lifestyle options to lead you in the direction of conscious consumerism. I hope you enjoy coming along this journey with me x

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