Plastic Recycling Codes Explained
Much of what we purchase, use, and dispose of these days is made from plastic. The more we consume, the more important it is for us to be thoughtful in the way we dispose of our waste. There are loads of different products out there, all made of different types and grades of plastic – so how do we know which ones are recyclable? While every plastic variety is fully recyclable, not all plastics are accepted in curb side recycling programmes run by your local council, so it is important to understand the different recycling codes and how they are treated in your local area.
Have you seen the codes on the bottom of your plastics – the single number with the arrows going around them in a triangle shape? The number indicates what grade of plastic it is and how to recycle it. Here is a summary to help clear things up:
The vast majority of our manufacturing uses the following two types of plastic –
LDPE – Low-density Polyethylene
Plastic 4 or LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene) is a thermoplastic and one of the oldest grades of polyethylene. This is the main type of plastic produced here at Meridian Plastics. There are three methods of production – injection moulding, extrusion and blow moulding. At Meridian we use the ‘extrusion’ method. Extrusion entails heating plastic pellets to melting point, then the melted plastic goes through a predesigned opening and is cooled to solidify.
LDPE has a lower density making it light and flexible, but also features strength and temperature resistance so has a wide variety of uses. LDPE is low cost, resistant to acids and bases, easy to process and mould, has good electrical insulation, some waterproof property and may be processed as transparent.
Also known as soft plastics, LDPE is found in garbage bags, sandwich bags, squeezable bottles, and plastic wraps. LDPE can be recycled back into the same thing. Local councils usually do not accept these types of materials, however programs such as REDcycle do. Disposal bins can be found at your local major chain supermarkets.
And, to a much lesser degree, we use HDPE
HDPE – High Density Polyethylene
HDPE has a high strength to density ratio which increases the wear resistance. These products can withstand heating and freezing and are safely reusable. Used in the packaging we manufacture here at Meridian, HDPE is generally used for products requiring sturdier packaging like household cleaners, outdoor furniture, toys, rope etc. Some advantages are that it does not leach, is UV resistant and has chemical resistant properties. HDPE products are safe to put into your recycling bin to be repurposed into more bottles and bags.
HDPE can be easily and efficiently recycled up to 10 times. Clear containers from HDPE 2 plastic are recycled back into the same new containers. Coloured HDPE 2 is further strengthened due to the colouring/pigmenting process and is turned into many other items like pipes, lumber, toys, lawn, pens and floor tiles.
As stated earlier, all plastics are recyclable but due to collection, sorting and cleaning facilities not all plastics can necessarily be recycled by your local council. It is important to check the number and that you are disposing of the item correctly as just one incorrect product can send an entire truck of otherwise recyclable items, to landfill.
If you would like more information on the types of plastics we use and how they are able to be recycled, get in contact with one of our friendly team and we will happily walk you through the process, keeping in mind the best packaging options for your particular product.
We don’t manufacture from the following, but here is some further general information to complete the picture.
PETE – Polyethylene Terephthalate
Found in common food packaging and soft drink bottles, usually clear in colour and best for single use packaging. These are generally the easiest products to recycle. They can go straight into your recycling bin and are then shredded into tiny pellets and given new life as plastic bottles and polyester fibres used in the production of fleece clothes, carpets or stuffing for items like sleeping bags and jackets.
V – Polyvinyl Chloride
Also commonly known as PVC which is strong and elastic due to softening chemicals (phthalates) and found in pipes, toys and packing. PVC can be difficult to recycle and should never be sent to landfill. PVC products should always be mechanically recycled so that it can be reused. If you have PVC that you need to dispose of, contact your local council to find out how these items are collected for recycling in your local area.
PP – Polypropylene
Found in products like clothing, tubs, rope, or bottles and when recycled properly are turned back into fibres to be reused again.
Polypropylene is commonly used for plastic mouldings, the plastic is melted and then poured into a mould to form complex shapes at relatively low cost and high volume. For example, bottle tops, bottles, and fittings.
PP plastic is the second-most widely produced plastic. Being light, heat resistant and sturdy, PP is applied to various packaging. PP Plastic is commonly used in disposable nappies, kitchenware, disposable plates/cups/cutlery and yoghurt containers.
PS – Polystyrene
Polystyrene can be difficult to recycle due to its bulky, yet lightweight nature, and because it is manufactured from petroleum. You should avoid buying products that have this recycling code on them, but where they can’t be avoided, try to reuse the product to avoid it going into landfill. This type of material cannot be placed in your kerbside recycling bin.
PS is cheap to produce, lightweight and it can be easily formed. PS is widely applied to packaging and insulation and can be found in, disposable cups, CD/DVD cases, take away food containers and disposable cutlery as well as different types of insulation.
All other plastics
Plastic 7 is everything else that isn’t referred to in plastic recycling codes 1-6 such as new plastics, bioplastic, and items composed of multiple types of plastics. It can include anything from acrylic to nylon, and unfortunately recycling plants do not want this material and worse still, it could ruin an entire truckload of good recycling. Look for plastic 7 on items such as sport bottles and equipment, car parts, baby bottles, medical and dental equipment