What Are The Recycling Symbols For Plastic Packaging

We can find many recycling signs on most containers of plastic packaging, bottles. In many recycling signs, we can see a number and sometimes a letter in the middle of the logo. The society of the plastic industry (SPI) implemented a system to help people manage and recycle them properly.

SPI introduced the system in 1988 requiring recycling authorities to use numbers 1-7 in the recycling signs. This indicates the grades of different plastic like the resin ID code to classify and recycle the types of plastic packaging. This is the system that we use in the world today.

These are valuable figures for consumers to tell whether your packaging can be recycled or straight to the landfill. So understanding the meaning of these figures is important. For adapting to more beneficial recycling habits. So what recycling symbols are there that we should know about?

No.1 Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is clear, strong, and lightweight plastic. This is widely used for packaging foods and beverages, especially convenience-sized soft drinks, juices, and water. It has a high-resolution transparent material that feels heavy but is the easiest to recycle.

Fields of application are liquid plastic bottles, physical containers, bottles for cleaning products.

Use after recycling: polar fleece, fibers, carrier bags, furniture, carpets, facings, belts, bottles, and microwaveable lining trays.

No.2 High-density polyethylene (HDPE)

HDPE plastic is the most environmentally stable of all plastics. Which does not emit harmful vapors into the environment. Due to its versatile material and high melting point. It can be very strong and incredibly versatile. The production of HDPE plastics requires only a fraction of the energy. Required to produce steel from iron ore, and thus contributes to the environmental classification.

Uses include vest shopping bag, moisture-proof food bag, a dog poop bag, hair care bottle, and milk bottle.

Recycling after use: garbage bags, plastic templates, garbage bins, plastic park seats, etc.

No.3 Vinyl (V or PVC)

Vinyl is the third most-produced plastic in the world. After polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP). This material is found in pipes, toys, furniture, and packaging everywhere in our lives. Although this material is versatile and inexpensive. It is difficult to recycle and PVC poses a serious threat to the environment and health. This material releases toxic substances during production and recycling.

Uses are packaging of hair care products, bottles, tubes and wire sheath, clothing, credit cards.

Recycling after use: Vinyl can rarely be recycled. But is accepted by some plastic lumber manufacturers. It can be recycled and processed into decking, cladding, mud flaps, gutters, floor coverings, cables, speed bumps, and mats.

No.4 Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE)

Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE) uses majorly revolve around the following. Manufacturing containers, dispensing bottles, wash bottles, tubing, plastic bags for computer components, and various molded laboratory equipment. LDPE is a translucent and robust plastic with excellent tensile strength. That offers moisture resistance for excellent product protection. The most popular application of low-density polyethylene is plastic bags.

Uses are: express sacks, packing bags, garbage bags, clothing bags, toys, and food packaging.

Recycling after use: garbage bags, courier bags, toys, and plastic wood.

No.5 Polypropylene (PP)

Polypropylene is a hard, moisture, and heat-repellent material. After polyethylene, it is also one of the most widely used plastic worldwide. Its cellophane appearance and transparency making it more environmentally friendly. It is one of the raw materials for product production with high demand products.

Uses include PP woven bag, jug, medicine bottle, bottle cap, candy bag, automotive parts, furniture, straw.

Recycling after use: Signal lights, garbage cans, brooms, brushes, car battery cases, ice scraper, landscape edges, bicycle rakes, bins, pallets, trays.

No.6 Polystyrene (PS)

A commonly used natural transparent plastic, the solid form of PS is generally hard and slightly brittle. Polystyrene foam is a good insulation material with good damping properties.

Polystyrene (PS) can be processed into rigid or foamed products – the latter is often referred to as a brand for foam. Styrene monomer (a molecule) can penetrate food and maybe a human carcinogen. While styrene oxide is classified as a possible carcinogen. This type of material is difficult to recycle. The main reason for this is that it is bulky in the form of foam. But very light and requires a lot of storage and transport space.

Uses for them are loose filling chips, loose filling beads, disposable plates and cups, meat trays, egg cartons, feed containers.

Recycling after use: insulation, switch plates, egg cartons, vents, rulers, foam packaging, carry-on containers.

No.7 Other plastics

The plastic resin identification code 7 is assigned to all plastics and is not suitable for any of the other six main categories. It can be made of more than one resin and used in a multi-layer combination. As with the usual vacuum composite bag, it consists of two materials: PA and PE.

Uses include: flexible packaging, spout pouch, food packaging

Recycling after use: This material is traditionally not recycled. But more organizations are willing to accept recycling them to turn into plastic lumber and custom-made products.


Many people ask us what number should be defined for our flexible packaging. Xiaoyu’s packaging is a multi-layer material. So we can define it as number 7 on our packaging. Recently more European and American countries are starting to recycle these materials.


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