Arrowearth’s Blog

Learning to live earth friendly

What The Heck is HDPE? August 11, 2009

Filed under: earth friendly — arrowearth @ 2:35 pm
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One of the things I needed to learn about recycling was “The Code”!  I could never keep it straight in my head… which plastic I was  trying to avoid?  I made up this chart to help me remember the symbols.  Hopefully it can help you. Please feel free to copy and use this as a reference.

The Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) implemented the system in 1988 to allow recyclers to be able to tell the different types of plastics when sorting. Basically, the numbers in the triangle indicate the grade of plastic – the resin ID code. It’s now a system that’s used in many different countries. Here’s what to look for and what it all means:

Symbols for Plastic

Symbols for Plastic

1 * PETE – Polyethylene Terephthalate

The easiest of plastics to recycle. Often used for soda bottles, water bottles and many common food packages. Is recycled into bottles and polyester fibers
2 * HDPE – High density Polyethylene Also readily recyclable – Mostly used for packaging detergents, bleach, milk containers, hair care products and motor oil. Is recycled into more bottles or bags.
3 * V – Polyvinyl Chloride This stuff is everywhere – pipes, toys, furniture, packaging – you name it. Difficult to recycle and PVC is a major environmental and health threat.
4 * LDPE Low-density Polyethylene Used for many different kinds of wrapping, grocery bags and sandwich bags and can be recycled into more of the same.
5 *PP – Polypropylene Clothing, bottles, tubs. Can be recycled into fibers.
6 * PS – Polystyrene Cups, foam food trays, packing peanuts. Polysterene is a real problem as it’s bulky yet very lightweight and that makes it difficult to recycle. For example, a carload of expanded polystyrene would weigh next to nothing so there’s not a lot of materials to reclaim, particularly when you take into account the transport getting it to the point of recycling. It can however be reused.
7 * Other

Could be a mixture of any and all of the above. Or plastics not readily recyclable such as polyurethane. Avoid it if you can – recyclers generally speaking don’t want it.