The 7 different types of plastic and why you should care

Plastic is literally everywhere. Open your fridge and you will see that pretty much everything is packaged in plastic. Go through your trash and you will realize how much of your waste is from plastic. You probably knew that already. But do you know there are 7 different types of plastic? Knowing the difference is important as it informs you on how to dispose of it and if it can be recycled or not.

1) Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE)

What is it? A tough plastic that will lose its color when you bend it. PETE plastics make up 96% of all plastic bottles and containers in the US. 

Where do we find it?

  • Soda bottles
  • Water bottles
  • Medicine jars
  • Peanut butter and jelly jars
  • Rope
  • Carpet
  • Tote bags
  • Combs


Can you recycle it?

Yes! This is the plastic most commonly recycled. (make sure to remove lids when recycling bottles). Unfortunately, only about 25% of PETE plastics are being recycled.

plastic water bottles

2) High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)

What is it? A thick plastic that is more flexible. It is also considered one of the safest forms of plastic.

Where do we find it?

  • Milk jugs
  • Non-carbonated bottles 
  • Trash bags
  • Shampoo and conditioner bottles
  • Soap bottles
  • Detergent containers
  • Motor oil containers
  • Toys


Can you recycle it?

Yes! HDPE is commonly recycled. It handles really well extreme heat or cold and won’t break down during the process. Unfortunately, only 12% of HDPE products are being recycled each year. 

bath-bottle-products-shampoo-conditioner-small

3) Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC - U)

What is it? A more fragile plastic that isn’t flexible. It is mentioned as the “poison plastic” due to the number of toxins it contains. This plastic is harmful to both our health and the environment. 

Where do we find it?

  • Plumbing pipes
  • Credit cards
  • Tile
  • Cling films
  • Window frames
  • Shoes
  • Gutters
  • Ducts


Can you recycle it?

Rarely. It can be recycled but it rarely is. Before putting this item in the recycling bin, make sure to check with your recycler to see if they handle this type of plastic or not. 

credit cards not recycable

4) Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE)

What is it? A plastic that can be both very thin and thick and that is flexible and that is fairly safe.  

Where do we find it?

  • Grocery bags
  • Plastic wrapping
  • Cling film
  • Sandwich bags
  • Squeezable bottles for condiments such as mustard
  • Frozen food bags
  • Flexible container lids


Can you recycle it?

Sometimes. It can be recycled but you will need to call your recycler first to make sure. LDPE packaging and containers are responsible for about 56% of all plastic waste.

plastic bags not recyclable

5) Polypropylene (PP)

What is it? Plastic that is hard to flex and will break into stripes. It is less toxic than some other plastics. 

Where do we find it?

  • Plastic kitchenware such as disposable cups and plates
  • Take-out container
  • Butter tubs
  • Fresh soup containers
  • Jar and bottle caps 
  • Plastic diapers
  • Tupperware
  • Yogurt containers


Can you recycle it?

Very rarely. A really small percentage (about 3%) is being recycled each year in the US. Check your local area for more information.

Plastic waste cutlery

6) Polystyrene or Styrofoam (PS)

What is it? Lightweight plastic and easily breakable. This is also a very poisonous plastic especially when heated up.  

Where do we find it?

  • Disposable insulated  coffee cups
  • Yogurt pots
  • Plastic food boxes and trays
  • Plastic cutlery
  • Packing foam


Can you recycle it?
It can’t be recycled and it is responsible for about 35% of landfill waste in the US. It will easily find its way on beaches all around the world.  

disposable coffee cup

7) Other

 

What is it? Tough plastic that will shatter under pressure.

Where do we find it?

  • Glasses
  • CDs and DVDs + cases
  • Baby bottles
  • Large water bottles
  • Medical storage containers
  • Electrical wiring


Can you recycle it?

No, it can’t usually be recycled.

gallon water not recyclable

Other facts about plastic:

Did you know a lot of fabric was made from plastic? We told you… It literally is everywhere!

Polyester (polyethylene terephthalate) is the most common fabric used that is made of plastic. 

The good news is since the plastic used to make the polyester fabric is the same as water bottles’ plastic, it is possible to make polyester from repurposed materials. Pay attention to where and how your clothes are made and if you have to buy polyester clothes, support the ones made from recycled plastic. 

clothes fabric made from plastic vs natural fibers

Making sure we know the origin and the recycling properties of the plastic we use is very important as it is a big part of our daily life and can be very harmful to the environment. 

Here are a few things you can do to have a better impact on the earth:

  1. Avoid plastic when possible. Buy your groceries in bulk, bring a reusable straws, use reusable grocery bags. No waste is the best waste. 

  2. When you do buy plastic, make sure to check the logo and the number to know if you can or cannot recycle it.

  3. Switch to compostable products such as SellSage compostable tableware

  4. Support companies using recycled plastic.

  5. Stay educated and aware of the latest laws and practices as these change regularly to be the most efficient. 

Thank you for your continuous efforts. 

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