Because plastic is used in so many products, it's important to recycle plastic to help prevent waste and to protect the environment. Plastic is used so widely that recycling is grouped into seven codes, which are located on the bottom of most recyclable plastic products. These codes were developed by The Society of the Plastics Industry, Inc. in 1988 to help determine the resin content of the plastic as well as how it will be recycled. This system helped establish a national standard for plastic recycling.
Code 1 recyclable plastics are made from polyethylene terephthalate. This product is clear, strong and semi-resistant to heat, making it useful in applications such as soft drink bottles. When recycled, code 1 bottles are in high demand to be remade into polyester products, including clothing and fleece wear.
Code 2 products are made of high-density polyethylene. This type of plastic is strong and resistant to chemicals, making it a popular option for juice, milk, cereal box liners and retail bags. Its resistance to chemicals also makes it a popular option for laundry detergents and bleach. Recycled code 2 plastics are used for a variety of products ranging from oil containers to plastic lumber.
Code 3 plastics contain polyvinyl chloride, or PVC. PVC's stable electrical qualities and weather-resistant properties make it useful in wire insulation, medical tubing and construction supplies such as piping and floor tiles. When recycled, code 3 products can make a wide variety of products ranging from mud flaps to traffic cones and garden hoses.
Code 4 plastics contain low-density polyethylene. Because of this plastic's clarity and ability to seal easily, it is most commonly used in plastic bags. However, it can also be used in other flexible plastic applications such as soda six pack rings, milk cartons and playground slides. When recycled, low-density polyethylene is used in a variety of products from trash cans to furniture.
Code 5 plastics contain polypropylene. Polypropylene has a high melting point, which allows it to contain substances that are originally poured hot. Its durability against oil make it also a common choice for molded automobile parts. When recycled, polypropylene is used for several items, including automobile battery cases and oil funnels.
Code 6 plastics are made from polystyrene. This type of plastic can be solid or foamed, making it a popular option for egg cartons and super market disposable meat trays. When recycled, polystyrene can be made into products such as foam plates and cups or thermal insulation.
Code 7 is used for any plastic not listed above or for plastics that are a mixture of two or more of the other plastic types.