Plastic Identification Code for Recycling

Seven groups of plastic polymers, each with specific properties, are used worldwide for packaging applications (see table below). Each group of plastic polymer can be identified by its Plastic Identification code (PIC) - usually a number or a letter abbreviation. For instance, Low-Density Polyethylene can be identified by the number 4 and/or the letters "LDPE". The PIC appears inside a three-chasing arrow recycling symbol. The symbol is used to indicate whether the plastic can be recycled into new products.

Plastic Identification Code
Type of plastic polymer
Common Packaging Applications

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET, PETE)
Clarity, strength, toughness, barrier to gas and moisture.
Soft drink, water and salad dressing bottles; peanut butter and jam jars


High Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
Stiffness, strength, toughness, resistance to moisture, permeability to gas.
Water pipes, Hula-Hoop (children's game) rings, Milk, juice and water bottles; the occasional shampoo / toiletry bottle


Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
Versatility, clarity, ease of blending, strength, toughness.
Juice bottles; cling films; PVC piping


Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE)
Ease of processing, strength, toughness, flexibility, ease of sealing, barrier to moisture.
Frozen food bags; squeezable bottles, e.g. honey, mustard; cling films; flexible container lids.


Polypropylene (PP)
Strength, toughness, resistance to heat, chemicals, grease and oil, versatile, barrier to moisture.
Reusable microwaveable ware; kitchenware; yogurt containers; margarine tubs; microwaveable disposable take-away containers; disposable cups and plates.


Polystyrene (PS)
Versatility, clarity, easily formed
Egg cartons; packing peanuts; disposable cups, plates, trays and cutlery; disposable take-away containers;


Other (often polycarbonate or ABS)
Dependent on polymers or combination of polymers
Beverage bottles; baby milk bottles; electronic casing.