What is recyclable plastic?  Even the best of us finds plastic recycling a minefield.  Local Authorities have tried to make it easier by using terms such as: plastic bottles, yoghurt pots and margarine tubs. However, what do you do if you don’t have these exact items?  How do you know if they collect and recycle the plastic?

Plastic waste is not ideal, but this guide will help you identify each plastic and work out what your Local Authority will take.

You May Also want to check out  FAQs – What can I Recycle?

PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) – Recyclable plastic

1 PET plastic symbol

1 – PET plastic is the most widely recycled. It is often used for single use clear plastic bottles.

You can recycle this plastic if your Local Authority refers to:

  • Plastic Bottles
  • Fizzy pop bottles
  • Mouthwash bottles
  • Yoghurt pots (check the plastic before recycling as some can be made from polystyrene)

PET can be recycled into polyester fabric and filling for for fleeces, carpets and cushion fillings.

2 – HDPE (High Density Polyethylene) – Recyclable plastic (check Local Authority)

2 HDPE plastic symbol

HDPE can be recycled.  However, you will need to check with your Local Authority to ensure it is recycled in your area.  HDPE is often found in stiff coloured bottles/tubs.

You can recycle this plastic if your Local Authority mentions:

  • Milk Jugs
  • Plastic bottle caps
  • Bleach/detergent bottles
  • Shampoo bottles
  • Margarine tubs
  • Ice cream tubs
  • Carrier bags that can be stretched – Local authorities often don’t collect carrier bags, but can be recycled in local supermarkets

HDPE can be recycled into pens and detergent bottles.

3 – PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)  – Non Recyclable Plastic

3 PVC plastic symbol

PVC is not recyclable in normal collections.

You can find this plastic in:

  • Cling film
  • Blister packaging
  • Hoses
  • Table Protectors
  • Plastic pipes
  • Plastic outdoor furniture

4 – LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene) – Recyclable plastic (check Local Authority)

4 LDPE plastic symbol

LDPE can be recycled. However, you will need to check with your Local Authority to ensure it is recycled in your area. This is a hard flexible plastic.

You can recycle this plastic if your Local Authority mentions:

  • Bread bags
  • Frozen food bags
  • Squeezable bottles i.e hand cream tubes
  • Bubble wrap – if specifically mentioned
  • Carrier bags that can be stretched – Local authorities often don’t collect carrier bags, but can be recycled in local supermarkets

LDPE can be recycled into bin liners.

5 – PP (Polypropylene) – Recyclable plastic (check Local Authority)

5 PP Plastic symbol

PP can be recycled. However, you will need to check with your Local Authority to ensure it is recycled in your area.

You can recycle this plastic if your Local Authority mentions:

  • Packing tape
  • Plastic Straws
  • Take away tubs
  • Ketchup bottles
  • Plastic picnic ware
  • Plastic bags or film that can’t be stretched- these are not recyclable

Polypropylene can be recycled into brooms, brushes, garden rakes and plastic trays.

6 – PS (Polystyrene) – Non Recyclable Plastic

6 Polystyrene plastic symbol

Polystyrene is not recyclable in normal collections.  There 2 types of polystyrene (hard, brittle plastic) and expanded polystyrene (light, insulating, waterproof plastic)


  • CD Cases
  • Plastic forks
  • Yoghurt pots (check the plastic before recycling as some can be made from recyclable plastics)

Expanded polystyrene

  • Foamy takeaway packaging
  • Meat trays
  • Packing peanuts
  • Styrofoam
  • Insulation

7 – Other – Non Recyclable Plastic – Non Recyclable Plastic

7 Other plastic symbol

Other plastics are not recyclable in normal collections. This categorises all other plastics including bioplastics, composite plastics (like crisp wrappers), plastic coated wrapping paper and polycarbonate (which contains BPA).

Flexible Plastic

Great news!! You can now recycle all those flexible bits of plastic like film, salad bags, sweet wrappers and Pet food pouches. Flexible plastic is now recyclable at some local supermarkets, unfortunately it is still widely unaccepted in your council collected bin. Sainsbury’s, Co-op and Tescos have all recently launched a Flexible plastic recycling scheme. Check your local supermarket to see if they have a recycling point. Below are the plastics that Sainsbury’s are now collecting:

Flexible plastic recycled by Sainsburys

Still having trouble?

Contact your local authority, or let me know if you are still having issues identifying what plastic can be recycled.  I would love to know how you get on identifying your recyclable plastics

Finally, don’t forget to make sure the containers are clean, empty and squashed (where possible) when recycling.

Guide to plastic recycling Infographic

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Useful links


rob · 3rd March 2019 at 10:14 pm

What about r-pet / pet-r? I think this is already recycled pet but can it be re-recycled?
I think we have it all wrong here; so much packaging says “may be recycled” without identifying what is made of. It is unacceptable to expect the public or even local authorities to identify all this vaguely labelled material. Even some marked items have such small recycling triangles that its impossible to read them without a magnifying glass. Why is this allowed? The large companies that produce this packaging or sell products in it, have to much influence on parliament & are passing on the problem of disposal to the public. They need to reduce the amount of packaging or label it more clearly.

    Fiona · 1st May 2019 at 6:19 pm

    r-PET and PET-r dose mean recycled PET and it can be recycled again – feel free to put these in your kerbside recycling :-).

    I agree that the onerous should be put on the designer of the product and packaging to ensure waste is minimal and can be disposed of responsibly through existing recycling schemes or composting. It is unfair that the public and local authorities should bear the brunt of poor design.

      Pamela · 20th August 2019 at 9:56 pm

      My local authority recycles plastic bottles, plastic trays, plastic pots (picture of yoghurt pot), plastic tubs (picture of margarine tub). Would this cover PETE, HDPE and PP codes? Thanks for all this information, it’s very useful!

        Fiona · 1st October 2019 at 2:51 pm

        Hi Pamela, they would indeed cover the PETE, HDPE and PP codes. I am glad you have found the information useful :-).

          Tim Huber · 7th December 2020 at 7:34 pm

          I was wondering if all my black sprinkler parts are recyclable? I’ve accumulated a lot over 30 years in sprinkler business and just don’t want to throw those into a landfill. Any ideas?

          Fiona · 27th February 2021 at 2:41 pm

          Unfortunately these cannot be recycled in the recycling bin. You would be best to see if you can give them to anyone who might need them. Try your local allotments, community gardens or posting them on Facebook marketplace.

Estaires · 11th April 2019 at 12:40 pm

Can plastic remote controls be recycled?

    Fiona · 1st May 2019 at 5:48 pm

    Unfortunately plastic remote controls cannot be recycled in kerbside household recycling, however you can take it to a household waste recycling facility aka the dump and recycle it with ]the electronics.

gren · 19th June 2019 at 5:04 pm

Hello, we have to use these syringes to administer food and meds to our son, the likelihood is that this will happen for quite some time, we are trying to become more aware of recycling and what we can do, the link is for the syringes that we use, do you know if there is anything we can do with them once they are used, the company that makes them says its down to the local authority but I don’t think this is good enough, I suggested that they have some kind of recall/collection system where they can take them back and repurpose them for new products, they have said they will put it product development people. I would rather not put them in the standard bin, please help!


Thank you

    Fiona · 24th June 2019 at 7:32 am

    What local authority area do you live?

      Gill · 7th November 2020 at 5:24 pm

      Nothing mentions 2b plastic, often used for trays of raw meat. I don’t see why it is not marked just 2? So not sure if it is OK to put in with the 1 & 2 plastics.

        Fiona · 27th February 2021 at 2:42 pm

        Meat trays should be fine to recycle as long as they have been cleaned before you put them in your recycling

Nella · 29th June 2019 at 12:33 pm

Thank you for this helpful article. Can C/HDPE be recycled? Will aluminium and plastic be separated by recycling?

    Fiona · 4th July 2019 at 5:05 pm

    Hi, HDPE as a plastic can be recycled. I am not sure what item you have in mind where there is aluminium and HDPE together. Would you be able to tell me what the item is?

      Marta · 19th August 2020 at 6:02 pm

      Hi fiona I found the same symbol (C/Hdpe) on a plastic bag that has food inside. It’s nestle brand. What does it mean?

        Fiona · 27th February 2021 at 2:56 pm

        C/HDPE is a new material that is coming about and it is biodegradable bioplastic. The C stands for Chitosan, which comes from the discarded shells of shell fish, this is used to create the plastic and therefore allows it to biodegrade. However as it is not HDPE in the fossil fuel sense, so cannot be recycled in Household recycling.

Chris · 5th September 2019 at 3:19 pm

Hi Fiona,
Please can you advise where EPE and EPP plastics would fit in this table?

    Fiona · 15th October 2019 at 4:28 pm

    EPP will not be accepted as it would be classed as a polypropylene film, which cannot be recycled. EPE may be accepted if your local authority takes plastic carrier bags as these are also made from polythene.

Dan · 10th October 2019 at 8:22 pm

Hello, I have large 04 LDPE plastic bag that a mattress came in. I can’t find anywhere on the Camden council website if I can recycle it kerbside. I would hate for this thing to go in the general rubbish bin because it’s huge! Any help on getting this thing recycled would be great as I’m quite the environmentalist. I’m keeping it stored in the house for now.

    Fiona · 13th October 2019 at 2:49 pm

    Hi Dan, having looked at Camden Council, they mention carrier bags and these generally are made from HDPE or LDPE, so I think you should be able to recycle your bag kerbside

Mike · 15th October 2019 at 7:17 am

Does co-extruded LDPE-PP food packaging films are recyclable?

As I checked from;
only LDPE films are apprearing like recyclable. PP films are not accepted.

What about their co-extruded versions? Are they accepted as recyclable?

Thanks for replies.

    Fiona · 15th October 2019 at 4:25 pm

    Composite materials tend not to be recyclable, so co-extruded LDPE-PP will be unlikely to be accepted.

Bonnie pysher · 4th November 2019 at 12:13 pm

Is there anywhere to recycle the plastic used to wrap around products on a pallet to keep it together? I think the correct term is shrink wrap plastic or film. It comes in rolls.

Eric Archer · 24th December 2019 at 10:58 am

I have a broken pepper mill. After dismantling it and extracting the metal parts I’m left with a cylinder of clear hard . plastic weighing nearly 300 gm. Surely this should not be sent to landfill? I don’t know, but at the moment that’s where it’s destined. There must be thousands of theses they are for sale in every supermarket. There are also smaller versions on sale that are non refillable. That is an especially appalling idea since they are comprised of plastic moulded on to glass. How are you supposed to sort that

    Fiona · 6th February 2020 at 3:12 pm

    Unfortunately a lot of products are not designed with disposal in mind and this is one of the major problems with a lot of waste. See if it has a triangle on it with a number in it to find out what it is made of. If you cannot identify the plastic unfortunately it may have to go to landfill, unless you can find a way to repurpose or mend the pepper mill.

K8 · 1st February 2020 at 4:56 am

I live in Maidstone & can’t put polypropylene (no 5) in my recycling. Just because it can be recycled doesn’t mean your local authority does recycle it. If the collection is too contaminated by items that they don’t recycle, there is a risk that the whole lot will be dumped so it’s important to check.
I don’t know where to take my PP for recycling. A trip to the tip would probably leave a bigger footprint.

    Fiona · 6th February 2020 at 1:24 pm

    I would firstly recommend contacting the waste department at the council to see if their tip will take polypropylene and if there are any plans to recycle it kerbside in the future. If they do take it at the tip, then collecting a good amount to reduce trips and combining the drop with another trip would reduce the impact.

      R Marr-Johnson · 25th October 2020 at 9:20 am

      Hi Fiona, I love the green image with an explanation of different recycling triangles. Given we won’t be seeing people this Christmas, I’m thinking I might send Christmas cards to friends and relatives. What a brilliant image to have on a Christmas card! Is it your image? Have you considered going into the greetings card business?

        Fiona · 27th February 2021 at 2:43 pm

        Hi Rachel, I do own the image and I haven’t thought about going into the greetings card business, but will consider it in the future 🙂

Roni Wilson · 27th September 2020 at 6:54 pm

Can one recycle the cardboard tubs with silver linnings such as ones chocolate drnks powder come in?

    Fiona · 27th February 2021 at 7:31 am

    Unfortunately due to the complex nature of the packaging having a foil lining and a metal base means it cannot be recycled through normal household recycling. However if you need to recycle Pringles tubes there is a company called Terracycle, which are able to recycle them:

Carlos Abentin · 28th January 2021 at 11:57 am

Does UK consider PE with mineral fillers as recyclable material?

    Fiona · 27th February 2021 at 2:39 pm

    As it is a composite material, it will not be able to be recycled in UK household recycling collections.

Unipet India · 22nd May 2021 at 10:24 am

Great blog post.Helpful and informative tips. I like it thanks for sharing this information with us

E · 21st October 2021 at 12:00 pm

Is a material with 80% polypropylene and 20% polyethylene widely recycled?

    Fiona · 2nd November 2021 at 9:40 am

    Unlikely as it is a composite material

Derek Small · 15th August 2022 at 1:06 pm

Hi Fiona. Florette salad bags (UK & Ireland) really popular, but recyclable? Company as I googled is Agrial Fresh Produce, started by a group of French Farmers, now 69 million salad bags a year! They have 5PP triangle symbol and say next to it ‘Recyclable’ -in big letters! and ‘Where facilities exist’ in much smaller text! Is this a bit of ‘greenwashing’ assuming that within the public (those who care at least a bit about recycling anyway) most will just see ‘Recyclable’ and buy the product? Only to then ‘bin it’ or maybe chance putting in with recyclables for the local council to worry about. How many will go to the effort of seeing where to recycle, or indeed should they be expected to? So I’m assuming that now branches of Co-OP Sainsbury and others who accept carrier bags and other plastic bags will take these ‘scrunchy/rustling type materials too? Should companies be forced to offer more details than simply ‘Where facilities exist’?

    Fiona · 15th August 2022 at 7:29 pm

    Yes, unfortunately it is a bit of green washing that you have found. You can recycle these ‘scrunchy’ bags in the various shops that take the plastic film. However, like you say most won’t end up there. Companies should do more to find alternatives to single use plastic packaging and provide clear information on the correct disposal of thier packaging. I would recommend contacting Florette about your concerns to encourage change.

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