Updated: Feb 13, 2020
Plastic recycling can be very confusing when it comes to what can be recycled, what can't be, what can be recycled locally etc so we thought let's do a small blog on what all the symbols and numbers mean to avoid future confusion.
Before we delve in to which plastic item goes where I'd like to say please please please try and avoid goods in packaging as much as possible - it may seem like quite a difficult task but there are food items that can be put in your own containers at deli counters or at the butcher or fishmonger etc just ask the person behind the counter whether you can use your own containers and they are normally happy to oblige. Fruit and Veg should be loose - that's all I say on the subject.
So we'll begin with the
This symbol simply means that the item can be recycled – three green arrows in a circle. Sometimes, the symbol will come with a percentage in the middle, signifying how much of it has been made from recycled materials.
Three arrows in a triangle means that the item is capable of being recycled. The numbers and letters act as identification for the recycling teams. Plastics are classified into one of seven categories, each one a different material that is more or less easy to recycle.
1 = PET, Polyethylene Terephthalate - 1 - WIDELY RECYCLED 2 = HDPE, High-Density Polyethylene - 2 - WIDELY RECYCLED 3 = PVC, Polyvinyl Chloride - capable of being recycled but harder to do so - 3 - CHECK WITH LOCAL AUTHORITY 4 = LDPE, Low-Density Polyethylene - capable of being recycled - 4 - CHECK WITH LOCAL AUTHORITY 5 = PP, Polypropylene – very difficult if not impossible to recycle. PP is used in Tupperware/food containers and disposable cups. 5 - PLEASE TRY TO REUSE OR AVOID IT. 6 = PS, Polystyrene or Styrofoam – very difficult if not impossible to recycle. PS is used in disposable coffee cups, plastic cutlery and packing foam. 6 - PLEASE TRY TO REUSE OR AVOID IT. 7 = other. This is usually a mix of lots of different plastics and is pretty difficult to recycle. 7 - PLEASE TRY TO REUSE OR AVOID IT.
So in short:
1&2 - YES
3&4 - MAYBE
5 - 7 - AVOID OR REUSE
This symbol doesn’t really have anything to do with recycling but is just a wee reminder to keep your world clean and put your rubbish in the bin. This symbol is part of the Keep Britain Tidy initiative.
This one's a bit of a weird one if I'm being honest - two interlocking green arrows mean that the manufacturers have made a financial contribution to recycling services in Europe. Take from that what you will. It doesn't mean the product itself is recyclable.
A circular white (love heart shaped) arrow means that it is recycled by 20%-75% of UK regions, so you have to check with your local recycling facilitated prior to disposing of it. Yeah we don't get it either - every recycling area should have the facilities to recycle all recyclable products.
This symbol means that the product is made from recyclable aluminium; foil is included. Best to make sure the foil is cleaned before recycling and the bigger the ball the easier it is to recycle.
This symbol means that the product cannot be recycled it should be composted. Just add it to your garden waste or food waste bin. The threaded-through leaf means that an item is compostable. It's important not to put these items in your normal recycling - they cannot be recycled. Pop them in with your garden waste (if you don't have a garden waste bin, your council will provide one).
FSC stands for Forest Stewardship Council and this symbol means the material has been made from wood sourced from a responsibly managed forest that complies with the FSC's independent guidelines. Isn’t that lovely!
This roughly sums up what all the symbols and numbers mean in regards to plastic and beyond. Now all we need is for these symbols to be present at all recycling points and we're laughing.
I cannot stress enough, if you can avoid plastics that cannot be recycled, avoid buying more plastic - try and reuse it, refill it, re purpose it. You'll be surprised what you can cut down on and what plastic containers can be used for.