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Plastics Recycling By Numbers

While many people are familiar with the term ‘recycling’ and take the time to throw recyclables into their designated bins, there’s far more to the recycling story.  Before you throw your next piece of plastic into a recycling bin, take an extra second to look at its assigned  number. Generally located on the bottom of an item, you’ll find the universal recycling symbol, three arrows forming a triangle. Within that tiny triangle, you will find a number ranging from 1 to 7. These numbers help identify what type of plastic you are using. Here is a list of codes you will find on your plastic materials:

1 PET – Polyethylene Terephthalate

2 HDPE - High- density Polyethylene

3 PVC - Polyvinyl Chloride

4 LDPE -  Low-density Polyethylene

5 PP - Polypropylene

6 PS - Polystyrene(Styrofoam)

7 OTHER – (Combination of plastics)

It is important to consider these numbers as different cities tend to recycle certain materials and it differs from one city to the next. The higher the number is, the less likely it is that a particular item will be recycled. For example, #1 - #7 may be recycled in a city such as Atlanta, Georgia. The city of Atlanta may have the proper facilities and funding needed to process all recycled plastics. In Honolulu, Hawaii, however, only numbers 1 and 2 are accepted. Not every city will consider recycling all plastics and it’s up to us as consumers to become familiar with the recycling habits of our town, city and state. 

Are you aware of the plastics that your city recycles? There are cities that will take recycled materials just to sell to other countries to be reproduced. China used to be the world’s “go-to” for repurposing recycled plastics until 2018. Their “National Sword” policy banned the import of most plastics headed for that nation’s recycling processors, which had handled nearly half of the world’s recyclable waste for the past quarter century.

The next time you shop, take a peek at the number within the recycle triangle. There is a chance that without taking the time to check, it will end up in a landfill, or worse, our oceans. Our oceans are taking the brunt of plastics that aren’t being recycled. Between 8 to 14 million tonnes enters our ocean every year

Do your part today: share this information with a friend and continue to visit our website for more tips on recycling and caring for our planet’s oceans. The planet would surely appreciate our efforts.


Caulfield, C. (2020, July 14). Why Doesn't Honolulu Recycle More? Retrieved September 08, 2020, from

CondorFerries. (2020). 100 Plastic in the Ocean Statistics & Facts (2020). Retrieved September 08, 2020, from

Recycling at home. (2019). Retrieved September 08, 2020, from

Team, R. (2019, June 02). Why some countries are shipping back plastic waste. Retrieved September 08, 2020, from


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