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What types of plastic exist and how are they recycled?


Plastic pollution is the scourge of our time (unfortunately). Each year, the amount of plastic on our planet continues to grow. There is already so much plastic that plastic particles are even found in fish. However, efforts are being made to tackle this problem. Scientists have developed numerous plastic recycling methods and continue working on new ones.

All types of plastic have their number assigned for product labeling and to simplify the sorting process for consumers and companies involved in industrial plastic recycling.

Types of plastic, their numbers, and main recycling methods

Plastic #1 or PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) – is used to make beverage bottles, cosmetic containers, and disposable food containers.

PET plastic is most commonly recycled using mechanical methods. However, thermal, chemical, and radiation methods are also applied.

Plastic #2 or HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene) – used for canisters, bottle caps, grocery bags, and many cosmetic and household chemical bottles.

HDPE is often recycled through pyrolysis or transformed into granules.

Plastic #3 or PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) – used for window frames, blister packs, tablet packaging, shrink wrap, and pipes.

PVC is rarely recycled and often ends up in landfills. The most rational recycling method for PVC is the physicomechanical approach.

Plastic #4 or LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene) – used for plastic bags, transparent film, and packaging for household chemicals.

Polyethylene is typically recycled using thermal methods.

Plastic #5 or PP (Polypropylene) – used for bottle caps, buckets, lens packaging, crinkly plastic packaging, and reusable tableware.

PP is most commonly recycled using mechanical methods.

Plastic #6 or PS (Polystyrene) – expanded polystyrene is used for foam products, meat trays, and egg containers, while regular polystyrene is used for toys, disposable tableware, and fast-food containers.

Polystyrene is also often recycled using mechanical methods. However, expanded polystyrene cannot be recycled.

Plastic #7 or Other (numbered from 7 to 19) – includes all other types of plastic and their mixtures.

It is not possible to recycle this type of plastic!


Proper sorting and recycling of plastic waste is crucial to minimize its environmental impact. Mechanical, thermal, chemical, and radiation methods are employed to recycle various types of plastic, but not all plastics can be effectively recycled. It is crucial to raise awareness and promote sustainable practices to reduce plastic waste and find alternative solutions for its disposal.

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