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 carrier bags are accepted
  • 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)

Polystyrene

  • 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).

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


21 Comments

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 :-).

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!

http://www.gbukenteral.com/products/enteral-saf-single-use-syringe/

Thank you

    Fiona · 24th June 2019 at 7:32 am

    What local authority area do you live?

Nella · 29th June 2019 at 12:33 pm

Hallo,
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?

Chris · 5th September 2019 at 3:19 pm

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

    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;
https://www.recyclenow.com/what-to-do-with/plastic-film
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.

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