Recycling Signs in Trash Removal - Do You Know What They Mean?


Everyone has heard they need to recycle, yet everyone does it.

And sometimes, those who do, don’t do so correctly because of misunderstanding recycling signs. I’m sure you’ve seen them before – those small triangles with a number in them. The question is – what do they mean?

Well, today we demystify those signs so that you can be sure of what you’re doing the next time you recycle your trash. Sorting them accordingly also helps make trash removal and disposal much easier.

Understanding the Recycling Signs on Plastic Packaging

While there are many recycling signs with different meanings and for different types of material, we will only focus on those on plastic bottles. The reason for that is that plastic is one of the major pollutants killing our planet. 

Before getting into the meanings behind the recycling signs, you have to understand that the signs are not just an indicator of the number of times the plastic has been recycled. They use a lot about the plastic, particularly the grade of the plastic and uses of that item.

So let’s quickly get to it, shall we?  

#1 – Polyethylene Terephthalate

Polyethylene Terephthalate

Polyethylene Terephthalate, also known as PETE, is the easiest plastic to recycle. It’s also the most commonly found type of plastic water and soda bottles and food packaging. It gets into the recycling stream quickly because it is not recommended for reuse.

#2 – High-Density Polyethylene

High-Density Polyethylene

High-Density Polyethylene, or HDPE, is usually opaque or colored. It’s mostly used for milk jugs, detergent bottles, and household cleaner bottles among others. When recycled, HDPE can be used to make plastic lumber, drainage pipes, and even more bottles. HDPE is also considered one of the safest forms of plastic.

#3 – Polyvinyl Chloride 

Polyvinyl Chloride

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) is typically found in shampoo bottles, toys, and window trim. Because it contains phthalates, it can’t be used for household items that touches food. PVC, when recycled, is usually turned into items such as paneling, flooring, cables, and decks.

#4 – Low-Density Polyethylene 

Low-Density Polyethylene

Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE) is the type of plastic used to make bottles that can be squeezed (like shampoo bottles) and plastic bags among other uses.  You can identify LDPE by the recycling sign which consists of a triangle made up of 3 arrows on the outside and the number 4 in the middle. LDPE can be recycled into clothing, piping, or thin plastic sheets that are sold off to manufacturers.

#5 – Polypropylene


Polypropylene (PP) is a durable and versatile type of plastic, making it one of the most widely used plastic types in the US. Unfortunately, the recycling rates of PP are among the lowest compared to other plastic types, leading it to be the most common types of plastic found in landfills.

PP is usually found in medical bottles, yogurt tubs, bottle caps, and condiment bottles among others. PP is recyclable and can be used to make (among other things) brushes, battery cases, oil funnels, and bike racks.

#6 – Polystyrene


Polystyrene (PS) is also commonly referred to as 'Styrofoam'. Among its many uses are disposable cups and plates, egg cartons, and even building insulation. Polystyrene is a difficult type of plastic to recycle and because of the same properties that make it useful – it’s made of 95% air.  Problems associated with recycling PS include collection and the fact that it is usually contaminated with food and other materials. 

Recycled PS can’t be used for products that contain food but can be used for other types of packaging and materials.

#7 – Other

Other recycle signs

Plastics with the number 7 in the middle of the recycling sign are usually made from different types of resin. They have various uses and can also be recycled into a number of different products.

Recycling Signs – Now You Know

Now that you know what the different recycling signs on your plastic packaging means and what goes into recycling them, you’re more knowledgeable than your friends. Well, that’s not really the point. The point is that this knowledge better equips you to know how to effectively sort out your plastics when disposing of them.

If you don’t have the time to do it yourself, you can still play a role in ensuring that your plastic waste is properly disposed of. 

Simply partner with a trash removal service like US Junk Trash. We’ll be glad to be of help. So, get in touch and let’s talk trash.