Plastic Recycling Codes

PETPolyethylene Terephthalate (PET or PETE)

Smooth and clear plastic that can be semi-rigid to rigid depending on container wall thickness. Polyethylene Terephthalate is known as "PET", but the recycling code is PETE because PET is trademarked.

Common uses: Plastic bottles for soda, water, food, liquid soap and lotion.

  • Pros

  • Good to fair general chemical barrier
  • Good alcohol and solvent barrier
  • Good gas barrier
  • Good moldability
  • Can be sterilized with EtO (ethylene oxide) or gamma radiation
  • Good stress crack and impact resistance at room temperature and above
  • Cons

  • Poor chemical barrier for strong acids and bases
  • Fair moisture barrier


HDPEHigh Density Polyethylene (HDPE)

Translucent, milky white colored plastic. Flexible, but more rigid than LDPE.

Common uses: Plastic bottles and jars for cosmetics, food, milk and laundry detergent.

  • Pros

  • Good impact strength
  • Good stress crack resistance
  • Good chemical resistance
  • Good vapor barrier
  • Excellent resistance to most solvents
  • Higher tensile strength than other forms of polyethylene
  • Can be sterilized with EtO or gamma radiation
  • Cons

  • Poor gas barrier


PVCPolyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

Flexible to rigid plastic that is transparent to yellowish in its natural state. Polyvinyl Chloride is called PVC, but it is also commonly known as vinyl. So the recycling code for PVC just uses the letter V.

Common uses: Clear food and non food packaging, medical tubing and wire insulation.

  • Pros

  • Good for coatings
  • Stable electrical properties
  • Good oxygen barrier
  • Good chemical resistance
  • Can be sterilized with EtO
  • Good impact resistance
  • Cons

  • Fair water barrier
  • Fair stress crack resistance
  • Poor recycling due to chloride residues


LDPELow Density Polyethylene (LDPE)

A very flexible, natural milky color, translucent plastic with high impact strength.

Common uses: Plastic bottles for honey, mustard and bread or food bags.

  • Pros

  • Good general chemical resistance
  • Excellent chemical resistance against mild and strong buffers
  • Good water vapor and alcohol barrier properties
  • Can be sterilized with EtO or gamma radiation
  • Good stress crack and impact resistance
  • Cons

  • Poor gas barrier


PPPolypropylene (PP)

A rigid, solid, durable plastic. It is opaque with a grayish yellow color in natural form.

Common uses: Plastic containers for ketchup, yogurt, margarine and medicine.

  • Pros

    Excellent stress crack and impact resistance
  • Excellent moisture barrier
  • Good oil and alcohol barrier
  • Good chemical resistance
  • High melting point - good for hot filling
  • Can be sterilized with EtO or autoclaving
  • Cons

  • Poor gas barrier properties


PSPolystyrene (PS)

A transparent, rigid and glass-like polymer.

Common uses: Packaging for CDs, aspirin bottles, cups, plates and disposable cutlery.

  • Pros

  • Light and heat stable
  • Good resistance to inorganic chemicals
  • Good stiffness in both foamed & rigid forms
  • Good impact and stress crack resistance
  • Can be sterilized with EtO or gamma radiation
  • Foamed PS - Low thermal conductivity & excellent insulation
  • Cons

  • Poor barrier properties
  • Brittle in its general purpose form


Other PlasticOther Plastics

The miscellaneous classification includes plastic that may contain multiple layers of different types of materials, like the above plastics. Some plastic that fall under this code are polycarbonate, Polytetraflouroethylene and Teflon. 

Common uses: Multiple gallon water bottles, juice bottles, oven-baking bags and custom packaging.

  • Pros

  • Combined characteristics from multiple plastics can create an improved material
  • Cons

  • Plastic bags, bottles and containers from this group are not easily recyclable

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