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Plastic Facts

There are seven basic types of plastic. You can tell what kind of plastic a container is made of by looking at the recycling symbol on the bottom:Plastic Recycling Picture

#1: PET(E) - Polyethylene Terephthalate

#2: HDPE -High Density Polyethylene

#3: PVC - Polyvinyl Chloride

#4: LDPE - Low Density Polyethylene

#5: PP - Polypropylene

#6: PS - Polystyrene

7: Other (mixed plastics)

Not all plastics can be recycled in all communities. Check with your municipal recycling coordinator to see which plastics are accepted in YOUR community!

  • In 1995, Americans recycled 9.5% of all plastic packaging, including 26% of all plastic bottles.
  • Approximately 19.0 million tons of plastic waste was generated in 1995.
  • The "#1" (PET) and "#2" (HDPE) plastics are most commonly recycled. Markets for other plastics are currently limited; so most recycling programs do not accept them.

#1 Plastics: PET, or Polyethylene Terephthalate

  • The most common use for recycled PET is for textiles. PET can also be spun to make fiber filling for pillows, quilts and jackets.
  • Five PET bottles yield enough fiber for one extra large T-shirt, one square foot of carpet, or enough fiber fill to fill one ski jacket.
  • takes 25 two-liter PET bottles to make a sweater.
  • It takes 35 two-liter PET bottles to make enough fiberfill for a sleeping bag.
  • Half of all polyester carpet made in the U.S. is made from recycled PET.
  • The first PET bottle was recycled in 1977.
  • Approximately 25% of all PET bottles were recycled in 1996.
  • The average household generates 17 pounds of PET bottles annually.

#2 Plastics: HDPE, or High Density Polyethylene

  • HDPE can be recycled into plastic pipes, plastic lumber, flower pots, trashcans, or bottles used for non-food applications (for example, soaps).
  • More than 310,000 tons of HDPE was made from recycled materials in 1996.
  • The HDPE recycling rate in 1996 was 13.9 percent.