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The Meanings of USA Recycling Numbers (The Numbers Found On Recyclable Items)

15 Jul 2021
The Meanings of USA Recycling Numbers (The Numbers Found On Recyclable Items) |

One of the things you will notice at the bottom of plastic containers is a small number within the 3-arrow triangle recycling symbol. These are the recycling numbers and they are sharing a reference, showing what material the plastic container is made of. The thing to keep in mind is that every compound has different molecules, and recycling it will come with its different share of requirements. Which does make you wonder, what does each number mean?

The codes you can find on recyclable items usually have codes from 1 to 7. Every number shows something different, and you need to make sure that you understand the abbreviation and assess what it means. Here’s the meaning of every recycling number.

1 – PETE

It has polyethylene terephthalate, and it’s usually the material used for stuff like soda bottles, medicine containers, cooking oil bottles, water bottles and so on.

2 – HDPE

Also known as high density polyethylene, this is a product used as containers for conditioners, shampoo, milk, detergent, grocery bags and toys.

3- V polyvinyl chloride

You will notice this product is used for a variety of different items like seat covers, vinyl dashboards, clear medical tubing, shower curtains and pipes as well.

4- LDPE or Low density polyethylene

Most of the time, this product is used for sandwich bags, grocery bags, wrapping films and so on. Most cities accept number 4 plastics for recycling, but not for grocery bags. The reason here is that they can get stuck in sorting machines, leading to all kinds of problems.

5 -  Polypropylene

This is used in the case of plastic caps for soda bottles, medicine containers, yogurt tubs, Tupperware and a variety of different products.

6 – Polystyrene

Polystyrene is a material used for Styrofoam insulation, packing peanuts, coffee cups, disposable cups and cutlery, plastic cups and many others.

7 – Others

This means any of the compounds that are not included in the first 6 categories can be added here. It can also be a combination of 1-6 as well.

Things to consider

The FTC and SPI guidelines for recycling codes are extremely important and easy to understand. The recycling codes are used in 39 states, they also identify resin content only, and they are imprinted or molded on the containers that can be recycled. Ideally, they must be shared right on the center of that container’s bottom part.


Understanding the meanings of USA recycling numbers is very important because it says a lot about how you can recycle a product, if it can be recycled and what method you can use. It helps immensely, and it can bring in tremendous potential every time. It’s imperative to assess the situation and ensure that you have access to the right results and experience. The great benefit here is that you will fully figure out a proper recycling process, which will make it easier to life a sustainable life. If you want to protect the planet and use only products that you want to recycle, then knowing the USA recycling numbers is extremely important!

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