What do the numbers on the bottom of plastic bottles mean?
Have you ever noticed the different numbers on the bottom of plastic bottles? These are plastic identification numbers, which tell you what type of plastic is used in the making of that bottle.
Some plastics are harmful to humans, whereas others are safe. So familiarizing yourself with the various symbols will help you to make better choices when purchasing plastic products.
View the listing here with allocations Dr. Jack has added as to safety. Keep in mind glass is always preferable to plastic. For example, if a HDPE plastic bottle is exposed to heat, it is no longer safe as the chemicals are released. With glass, this is not an issue so always opt for glass when available.
Number 1 – PET – Poly(ethylene terephthalate): AVOID
Soda bottles, water bottles, cooking oil bottles, and medicine containers.
Number 2 – HDPE – High-density Polyethylene: SAFER
Containers for: laundry/dish detergent, milk, shampoo, conditioner, also various toys, and grocery bags.
Number 3 – PVC – Poly(vinyl chloride): AVOID
Pipes, shower curtains, clear medical tubing, vinyl dashboards and seat covers.
Number 4 – LDPE – Low-density Polyethylene: SAFER
Wrapping films, grocery bags, and sandwich bags.
Note that most cities accept plastics #4 for recycling, but NOT grocery bags (these can become stuck in the sorting machines).
Number 5 – PP – Polypropylene: SAFER
Tupperware, yogurt tubs, (orange) medicine containers, and plastic caps of soda bottles.
Number 6 – PS – Polystyrene: AVOID
Plastic cups, disposable cutlery and cups (clear and colored), coffee cups, packing peanuts, Styrofoam insulation.
Note that most cities accept plastics #6 for recycling, but NOT styrofoam, peanuts, etc. (these are contaminated by food easily).
Number 7 – OTHER: This is a catch all category. Some are good and some are bad. AVOID
They are made of any combination of 1-6 or another, less commonly used plastic.
Biodegradable plastics, like cups made of corn, are NOT recyclable. Though they have recycling #7, this only means “other plastics”, including non-petroleum based.