Understanding the Plastic Recycling Symbols (Types of Plastics)


This post will document the basic knowledge of the 7 plastics that we come across in our day to day life, or otherwise known as commonly used domestic plastics. The majority of this information is UK centric, but the knowledge will still be applicable to a lot of you.


PET or otherwise known as Polyethylene terephthalate is commonly used for clear drinks bottles, oil bottles, food packaging / punnets, and textiles like polyester.

UK Recycling Information

  • PET drinks bottles are collected by most (92%) council waste collection schemes.

  • Recycled into fabrics and fleece, carpets, straps.

  • Also can be recycled into new bottles in Closed-Loop systems, and other food packaging.


HDPE or otherwise known as high-density polyethylene is commonly used for milk containers, cleaning, laundry and detergent bottles, shampoo bottles. (You can remember HDPE is the milk container plastic, because it has a slightly milky look, as is opaque rather than clear).

UK Recycling Information

  • Collected by most (92%) of councils.

  • Recycled into recycling containers and bins, garden furniture, pipes, pens.

  • New technology allows HDPE to be recycled for new milk bottles.

3. PVC (V)

PVC or otherwise known as polyvinyl chloride is commonly used for detergent bottles, squash bottles, window frames, drainage pipes, shower curtains, clothing, toys, clear food packaging.

UK Recycling Information

  • Not generally collected in household recycling.

  • Can be hazardous for recycling centres to deal with.


LDPE or otherwise known as low-density polyethylene is commonly used for dry cleaning and carrier bags, bread bags, squeezy bottles and containers, yokes for six-pack beers, linings and laminated cardboards.

UK Recycling Information

  • Not generally collected in household recycling.

  • Plastic carrier bags are collected by some supermarkets for recycling into new carrier bags or bin bags.

  • Mixed plastic recycling is hoped to be in place within 5 years (from 2018).

5. PP

PP or otherwise known as Polypropylene is commonly used for margarine tubs, soup pots, most bottle tops, waterproofing in clothes, straws and medicine bottles.

UK Recycling Information

  • Not generally collected in household recycling in spite of potential for recycled plastics for bins, pallets, trays etc.

  • Again, mixed plastic recycling is hoped to be in place within 5 years.

6. PS

PS or otherwise known as polystyrene is commonly used for most yoghurt pots, meat trays, takeaway cups, disposable plates, takeaway containers, compact disk holders, cushioning in packaging.

UK Recycling Information

  • Not generally collected in household recycling.

  • Some commercial polystyrene may be recycled however for use in foam packing, rulers, carry-our containers.


Other (no.7) usually indicates that items is made from a blend of plastics, in any combination of the standard six, plus any other resin type. Includes acrylic/perspex, nylon and polycarbonate. Certain food containers. DVDs and sunglasses.

UK Recycling Information

  • Not generally collected in household recycling.


**All of this information was found in Turning the Tide on Plastics, by Lucy Siegle but was cross referenced with information from these sources if you would like to take a further look into the information, more research or simply fact check.


  • Turning the Tide on Plastics, Lucy Siegle

  • Junk Raft, Marcus Eriksen

  • https://www.recyclenow.com/what-to-do-with/plastic-film8

  • http://www.wrap.org.uk/content/types-plastic


  • https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/carrier-bag-charge-summary-of-data-in-england

  • https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/waste-management-data-for-england

  • https://www.lewisham.gov.uk/myservices/wasterecycle/where-does-it-go/Pages/What-happens-to-my-recycling.aspx


  • https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/741304/Waste_management_2017_England_summary.pdf




Immy is the creator of the YouTube channel Sustainably Vegan and the founder of the Low Impact Movement. Immy has dedicated her life to fighting the waste pandemic through online activism including social media campaigns, and personal waste reduction tips.

YouTube: Sustainably Vegan

Instagram: @sustainably_vegan

Imogen Lucas