Recycling symbols can be further divided into two separate categories.
  1. 'Recyclable' symbols marking products made from specific materials that are suitable for recycling depending on whether there is a collection mechanism in place within the local community for those particular materials.
  2. 'Recycled' symbols designating products containing recycled materials.

'Recycled' symbol for paperboard

'Recyclable' symbol for glass

'Recyclable' symbol for corrugated

'Recyclable' symbols for plastic
bottles, containers and packaging

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE or PET)


Properties: toughness, strength, heat resistance, barrier to moisture and gas. Density: 1.35-1.38 g/cc

Statistic: In 1999 PET accounted for 48% of plastic bottle resin sales, making it the most widely used resin in plastic bottles

Description: PET, also referred to as polyester, is a popular packaging material for food and non-food products because it is inexpensive, lightweight, resealable, shatter-resistant and recyclable. PET is clear and has good moisture and gas barrier properties. Its color may be green. The flakes and pellets of cleaned postconsumer recycled PET are in heavy demand for use in spinning carpet yarns and for producing fiberfill and geotextiles.

Packaging applications: Soft drink bottles, water bottles, beer bottles, mouthwash bottles, peanut butter containers, salad dressing containers, juice bottles, vegetable oil bottles

Recycled products: Fiber, tote bags, new PETE containers for both food and non-food products, fabric for clothing, athletic shoes, luggage, upholstery, furniture, carpet, fiberfill for sleeping bags and winter coats, industrial strapping, sheet, and film, and automotive parts, such as luggage racks, headliners, fuse boxes, bumpers, grilles and door panels

High Density Polyethylene (HDPE)


Properties: toughness, strength, stiffness, ease of forming, ease of processing, resistance to moisture and chemicals, permeability to gas. Density: 0.94-0.96 g/cc

Statistic: In 1999 HDPE accounted for 47% of plastic bottle resin sales, making it the second most widely used resin in plastic bottles. HDPE and PETE together accounted for 95% of plastic bottle resin usage

Description: Bottles made from HDPE come in both pigmented and unpigmented resins. The unpigmented resin is translucent. It also has good stiffness and barrier properties. Thus, it is ideal for packaging products having a short shelf-life such as milk. HDPE's good chemical resistance allows it to be used in containers holding household or inductrial chemicals. The pigmented resin has even better crack resistance and chemical resistance than the unpigmented resin.

Packaging applications: Milk containers, juice bottles, water bottles, bleach, detergent, and shampoo bottles, trash bags, grocery and retail carrying bags, motor oil bottles, butter and margarine tubs, household cleaner bottles, yogurt containers, and cereal box liners

Recycled products: Drainage pipe, liquid laundry detergent bottles, oil bottles, pens, benches, doghouses, recycling containers, floor tile, picnic tables, fencing, lumber, and mailbox posts

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC, sometimes V)


Properties: toughness, strength, ease of blending, ease of processing, resistance to grease, oil, and chemicals, clarity. Density: 1.32-1.42 g/cc

Statistic: In 1999 PVC accounted for 2% of plastic bottle resin sales.

Description: Vinyl, or polyvinylchloride, has stable electrical and physical properties. It has excellent chemical resistance and good weatherability. Its flow characteristics make it well-suited for injection molding.

Packaging applications: Window cleaner bottles, cooking oil bottles, detergent bottles, shampoo bottles, clear food packaging, wire and cable jacketing, medical tubing, with additional significant usage in household products and building materials, particularly siding, piping, and windows

Recycled products: Binders, decking, paneling, mudflaps, roadway gutters, flooring, cables, speed bumps, and mats

Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE)


( - CH2 - CH2 - )n
Properties: toughness, strength, flexibility, ease of sealing, ease of processing, barrier to moisture. Density: 0.91-0.93 g/cc

Statistic: In 1999 LDPE accounted for just 1% of plastic bottle resin sales.

Description: Because of its toughness , flexibility, and transparency, LDPE is commonly used in applications where heat sealing is necessary. It is also widely used in wire and cable insulation and jacketing.

Packaging applications: Squeezable bottles, breadbags, frozen food bags, tote bags, clothing, furniture, dry cleaning bags, and carpet

Recycled products: Film and sheet, loor tile, garbage can liners, shipping envelopes, furniture, compost bins, paneling, trash cans, lumber, landscaping ties

Polypropylene (PP)



Properties: toughness, strength, resistance to heat, grease, oil, and chemicals, barrier to moisture. Density: 0.90-0.92 g/cc

Statistic: In 1999 PP accounted for 2% of plastic bottle resin sales.

Description: Polypropylene has the lowest density of the resins used in packaging. It is strong and is resistant to chemicals. Since it has a high melting-point it can be utilized in applications requiring that a container be filled with a hot liquid.

Packaging applications: Yogurt containers, syrup bottles, ketchup bottles, caps, straws, medicine bottles

Recycled products: Signal lights, battery cables, brooms, brushes, auto battery cases, ice scrapers, landscape borders, bicycle racks, rakes, bins, pallets, and trays

Polystyrene (PS)


Properties: ease of forming, clarity, low heat transfer, good thermal insulation. Density: 1.03-1.06 g/cc

Statistic: In 1999 PS usage as a plastic bottle resin was essentially nil.

Description: Polystyrene can be made into rigid or foamed products. It has a relatively low melting point.

Packaging applications: Plates, cups, cutlery, meat trays, egg cartons, carry-out containers, aspirin bottles, compact disc jackets

Recycled products: Thermal insulation, light switch plates, egg cartons, vents, rulers, foam packing, carry-out containers


Properties: varies according to constituent resins

Statistic: In 1999 there was minimal usage of resins in the 'other' category in plastic bottles.

Description: The category of "Other" includes any resin not specifically numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6, or combinations of one or more of these resins.

Packaging applications: Three and five gallon water bottles, certain food product bottles

Recycled products: Plastic lumber, custom-made products

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS)

Properties: resilient, low density, rigid, impervious

Description: Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene was not part of the original resin identification system.

Applications: Pipes, car bumpers, toy building blocks, golf club heads, enclosures



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