Plastic Resin Codes Demystified
Below is a summarised list of plastic resin codes that can be found on plastic packaging, bottles and on anything plastic. These codes actually represents a particular plastic resin. Each plastic resin has its unique properties and can be recycled in some cases, which I have denoted as “second life” for its function upon being recycled.
The summarised plastic resin information below was obtained from the American Chemistry Council site1 and is available as a downlodable pdf file which I have attached here.
Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET, PETE)
PET or polyester is a clear and tough plastic resin with good moisture and gas barrier properties. It also possesses resistance to high impact, shatter and to most solvents.
Uses: PET is commonly used in plastic bottles for beverages, mouthwash and sauces. Food tray and plastic film for microwave ovens, and production of textiles.
Second life: Great demand for usage as stuffing for pillows, soft toys and geotextiles, food containers and beverage bottles.
High Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
Exists in two forms – pigmented or unpigmented. Unpigmented versions are translucent and possess a lesser degree of stiffness and toughness as compared to the pigmented ones. Possess excellent resistance to most solvents.
Uses: Bottles for milk, detergent and household cleaners. Reusable grocery bags, and wire and cable coverings.
Second life: Bottles for non-food items, plastic lumber, recycling bins.
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
Possess the ability to withstand high impact and good resistance to chemicals grease, oil and the elements. Flexible processing capabilities to give wide range of products.
Uses: Wide range of products, from rigid packaging material like blistershells to flexible material like blood bags and IV tubings. PVC is also used for manufacturing pipings and window frames.
Second life: Piping, fencing, floor mats, gutters and film sheet packaging.
Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE)
LDPE possesses a good combination of toughness, flexibility and is relative transparent enough to be used in packaging and heat sealing applications. It possess excellent resistance to acids, bases and vegetable oils.
Uses: Packaging in the form of bags for frozen foods, bread, garbage, shrink wrap. Coatings for paper milk cartons, disposable cups and squeezable bottles.
Second Life: Packaging film and sheet, panelling, landscaping timber and compost bins.
Durable, good chemical resistance to acids, alkalis and most solvents and excellent optical properties.
Uses: Bottles and containers for yogurt, margarine, medicine and for sauces and syrup. Other consumer products like fibres, appliances and automotive carpeting.
Second life: Automotive accessories like battery cases and cables, signal lights, and bicycle racks. Gardening tools like rakes and storage bins.
PS is a versatile plastic that can be compact and tough or expanded like foam (Styrofoam). It possesses excellent moisture barrier and insulation properties, low thermal conductivity in foamed mode. High stiffness and low density in foamed applications.
Uses: Disposable cups, plates, cutleries and clamshells. Protective foam packaging for delicate items like electronics and furniture. Other major uses include electronic housings, cable spools and toys.
Second life: Protective packaging, wood replacement products and thermal insulation.
This code indicates that the item is made up of plastic resin that does not include the six listed above, or involves the usage of more than one resin in a layered combination.
Uses: Some bottles, barriers and custom packaging.
Second life: Bottles and plastic lumber.