7 types of recyclable plastic: What is recyclable and non-recyclable

7 types of recyclable plastic: What is recyclable and non-recyclable

What is recyclable and non-recyclable

Although most plastics can be recycled, the rate at which they are and how effectively it can be done varies among the different polymers. There are 7 categories of plastics, denoted by their recycling symbols, as seen in the image below. Some plastic recycling companies will only work with certain type of plastic as it can require specific machinery and processes for every different type of polymer. Additionally, some products can pose hazards such as jamming equipment, as is the case with plastic bags. Nonetheless, plastic recycling is a sustainable opportunity for extra revenue for companies that accumulate plastic waste.

What is recyclable?

The 7 types of recyclable plastics fall under the categories of PET, HDPE, PP, LDPE, PVC, PS, and Other. In addition to reducing plastic consumption and increasing the use of recycled plastic instead of virgin plastic, recycling responsibly is a key component in doing something about plastic pollution. What is the proper way to recycle? Typically, when recycling, it is important to appropriately sort it, rinse it, and make sure to remove any caps as they might be made of a different material. You should recycle 1 plastic, known as PET. PET plastic recycling is available at most recycling facilities, so just make sure to drop it off in a plastics recycling bin. Sometimes it can depend on the product itself. For example, HDPE plastic recycling is widely supported but it is difficult to recycle plastic 2 when the product is a plastic bag. However, many supermarkets have plastic bag recycling points to collect these items. On the other hand, materials with a recycling symbol of 3: PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) are rarely recycled and are usually only accepted at select facilities that work with PVC. Smaller items can usually be disposed of in recycling bins but when it comes to PVC from construction materials like gutters and windowsills, these are best left at larger recycling centers or ones working with the polymer specifically. Depending on the region and the infrastructure in place at recycling centers, 4 plastic recycling (LDPE) may or may not be widely available. Check with the recycling center near you about ldpe plastic recycling and dispose of film or bags at plastic bag collection points at supermarkets. Denoted by the number 5: PP (Polypropylene) is like PET in that it is widely collected, just make sure to rinse it out. If you are wondering "is 6 plastic recyclable" it is not. PS is unfortunately not recycled or accepted by most recycling facilities so try to avoid it! To recycle 7 plastic, it takes a bit more research and effort. Materials that fall under the 7-other category can’t be recycled through common recycling bins. In this case, see if you can find another use for it or sell it, otherwise it ends up in a landfill.

Don't Rely on Recycling Numbers on Plastics

How to recycle

Once plastic waste has gone through the collection and sorting process, the actual recycling and remanufacturing can take place. Depending on the types of recyclable plastic, the end use can vary. With this, the quality and composition of the recycled product can differ as well. The different recycling categories have different common applications and industries. Some are preferred by the packaging industry, such as PET, LDPE, HDPE, and PP. Others have higher demand in the construction and automotive industries, like PVC. Raw material that will be used for food-contact applications will require a more extensive process to ensure that it meets the standards for such applications. While materials that will be used for insulation in a home and not be as visible, won’t be held to the same standards. Companies that accumulate plastic waste can either use collection bins already in place for the entire community or set up an arrangement directly with recycling facilities and companies to have their waste picked up, sold, and repurposed.

What is non-recyclable?

It is important to be aware which are non-recyclable plastics in order to opt for an alternative product if possible. It is also important to understand the types of plastic recycling available near you to properly sort and discard your plastic waste, whether it be at home or at work. Businesses should also keep this in mind when manufacturing products and packaging or choosing what companies and products to work with. If more individuals and companies are educated on the subject, they can do more to support the polymers and processes that are most sustainable and can best aid the scaling of plastic recycling.

Plastics production, plastic waste generation by industry and plastic waste  treatment by method in the EU, 2011 | Epthinktank | European Parliament

What to do with plastic that cannot be recycled

Unfortunately, plastic recycling currently only takes care of about 9% of plastic waste produced. Recycled materials are increasingly in demand, but the infrastructure has not developed at the same pace. There is still an abundance of plastic that cannot be recycled in circulation. Non-recyclable plastics like PS and those designated as other #7 plastics, firstly need to stop being produced and used for products. That is where more sustainable product design needs to be implemented. But for the non-recyclable plastic that is already in existence, a solution can be to find other uses for the product if possible or selling it. Depending on the product itself, there are different ways to go about doing that. Smaller products such as CDs can be sold on sites like Ebay. Other types of plastic waste like PVC pipes and construction materials can be accepted by larger, industrial recycling facilities and remanufacture into things like outdoor furniture and agriculture tools.

What is commingled recycling?

Commingled recycling refers to a single-stream plastic recycling process, which is when all paper, plastic, and metal waste is collected together. Instead of having separate bins and collection trucks for each type of recyclable waste, it is collected all together and then sorted out into its appropriate categories at the recycling facility, whether it be plastic packaging recycling, glass, or metal scrap recycling. There are pros and cons to this, largely influenced by the infrastructure available and the recycling knowledge in that area. In a way, it makes recycling easier and cuts back on collection costs. However, it places a lot of responsibility on businesses and individuals to properly differentiate what can be recycled and what should be tossed in a trash bin. Since such a variety of items are thrown together, less effort is taken to properly disposing of them and cleaning materials out. This can result in increased processing rates to clean out and separate contaminated materials. The potential increase in broken glass, dirty paper, or contaminated plastic results in less output of usable materials. Ultimately, the increase in convenience can have a direct correlation with a decrease in overall recyclable products. However, it can increase the chances of more materials being recycled and cuts back on emissions by requiring less collection trucks and less time on the road. Thus, commingled recycling has its benefits in communities that can afford it, but if the system is not yet in place, it requires a significant investment in new carts, collection vehicles, and an updated processing facility. Additionally, if the facilities exist for processes like the chemical recycling of plastics, it might be more feasible to work directly with these companies if you have plastic waste, rather than these companies having to go through the commingled recycling facilities once they have sorted everything.

What Is Commingled Recycling?


Actively addressing the plastic pollution problem and working towards circularity requires effort and commitment from individuals, companies, and policy makers. We can’t depend on households and individuals to recycle us out of the problem—it’s not possible. Not only do businesses likely have a larger quantity of plastic waste that can be repurposed, but they also play a role in designing and choosing the materials and products they put out into circulation. Companies not only have the opportunity to play a significant role in the scaling of plastic recycling and helping the environment, but recycling efforts can also be an opportunity for additional revenue and can support their brand to attract more clients and employees. The plastic recycling industry is expanding as the recycled plastic market continues to grow with the support of sustainability commitments and government policies. If you are a company that deals with plastic products or simply a business that ends up with plastic waste, we encourage you to check with local recycling facilities to see what options you may have or reach out to companies like MikaCycle for assistance in understanding what opportunities there may be in the recycled plastic market for you. Where to buy recycled plastic can depend on your needs and region but if you want to make sure it is of good quality and you want to support increased traceability and transparency when trading recyclables, MikaCycle is the platform to sell or buy recycled plastic that you are looking for. Our marketplace offers a variety of recycled polymers in different forms to best suit your needs from around the world. We vet suppliers to ensure they are legitimate businesses with verified certifications and provide a platform for buyers and sellers to negotiate directly and participate in a smooth, digitized transaction.

EU plan towards Circular Economy – the first-ever Europe-wide strategy on  plastic - ABIS Global