The Plastic Confusion: What do those numbers mean?

January 17, 2022

Have you ever wondered what those numbers mean underneath the recycling symbols on your plastic containers? They’re a universal code to classify different types of plastic. This helps recyclers in the sorting process. Here’s the catch: only some of those numbers can be recycled! Read on to learn more about the meanings of the different numbers and which ones can and can’t be recycled.

  • Number 1: PETE – PETE stands for polyethylene terephthalate. This plastic makes up soda and water bottles,cooking oil bottles, and the containers your medicine might come in. Number one plastics are recyclable.
  • Number 2: HDPE – High-density polyethylene is what your laundry or dish detergent, milk gallons, and shampoo and conditioner bottles are made from. They’re thicker and more durable than PETE plastic. Number two plastics are recyclable.
  • Number 3: V – V stands for polyvinyl chloride. Things like plastic PVC pipes, shower curtains, clear medical tubing and vinyl seat covers are made from Number 3 plastic. Number 3 plastic is recyclable.
  • Number 4: LDPE – Low-density polyethylene is what plastic bags, plastic wrap, and sandwich bags are made from. These can be accepted but cause issues at the recycling facility and tangle and damage the separating equipment.  Most grocery stores have collection bins for plastic bags, and it is recommended to use this method of recycling instead of curbside pickup. They’ll be remade into more plastic bags instead of being sent to the landfill!
  • Number 5: PP – PP stands for polypropylene. Number 5 plastics include Tupperware, yogurt tubs, orange medicine containers, and the plastic caps of bottled drinks. Number 5 plastics are recyclable!
  • Number 6: PS – Polystyrene (Styrofoam) plastic is found in plastic cups, disposable cutlery, Styrofoam coffee cups, and packing peanuts. Styrofoam is not recyclable in our area, so throw Number 6 plastics in the trash. Nowadays, you can buy compostable cutlery and partyware. These go in with your compost. This is a good alternative to using plastic disposable cutlery.
  • Number 7: OTHER – This means that the plastic is made up of combinations of 1-6 plastic. If a plastic item is labeled with a 7, it can be recycled.

Start recycling today!

Call GFL Environment at 309-688-0760 or click “Sign Up for Recycling” to request your 95-gallon single stream recycling cart with wheels and a lid, with no deposit required. To take advantage of every other week recycling collection, you must use the provided cart.

If you have too much recycling for your cart on a regular basis, you may request an additional 95-gallon cart at no cost.


Want to subscribe for the latest Peoria Picks Up updates? Enter your email in the Subscribe to Peoria Picks Up section on the right and click ‘Subscribe.’