different types of plastic


The Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) established a classification system in 1988 to allow
consumers and recyclers to identify different types of plastic. Manufacturers place an SPI code, or
number, on each plastic product, usually moulded into the bottom. This guide provides a basic outline
of the different plastic types associated with each code number.

Polyethylene Terephthalate sometimes absorbs odours and
flavours from foods and drinks that are stored in them. Items
made from this plastic are commonly recycled. PET(E) plastic is
used to make many common household items like beverage
bottles, medicine jars, rope, clothing and carpet fibre.

High-Density Polyethylene products are very safe and are not
known to transmit any chemicals into foods or drinks. HDPE
products are commonly recycled. Items made from this plastic
include containers for milk, motor oil, shampoos and conditioners,
soap bottles, detergents, and bleaches. It is NEVER safe to reuse
an HDPE bottle as a food or drink container if it didn’t originally
contain food or drink.

Polyvinyl Chloride is sometimes recycled. PVC is used for all
kinds of pipes and tiles, but is most commonly found in plumbing
pipes. This kind of plastic should not come in contact with food
items as it can be harmful if ingested.

Low-Density Polyethylene is sometimes recycled. It is a very
healthy plastic that tends to be both durable and flexible. Items
such as cling-film, sandwich bags, squeezable bottles, and plastic
grocery bags are made from LDPE.

Polypropylene is occasionally recycled. PP is strong and can
usually withstand higher temperatures. It is used to make lunch
boxes, margarine containers, yogurt pots, syrup bottles,
prescription bottles. Plastic bottle caps are often made from PP.

Polystyrene is commonly recycled, but is difficult to do. Items
such as disposable coffee cups, plastic food boxes, plastic cutlery
and packing foam are made from PS.

Code 7 is used to designate miscellaneous types of plastic not
defined by the other six codes. Polycarbonate and Polylactide are
included in this category. These types of plastics are difficult to
recycle. Polycarbonate (PC) is used in baby bottles, compact discs,
and medical storage containers.

Plastic Type General Properties Common Household Uses
Good gas & moisture barrier properties Mineral Water, fizzy drink and beer bottles
High heat resistance Pre-prepared food trays and roasting bags
Clear Boil in the bag food pouches
Hard Soft drink and water bottles
Tough Fibre for clothing and carpets
Microwave transparency Strapping
Solvent resistant Some shampoo and mouthwash bottles

High Density
Excellent moisture barrier properties Detergent, bleach and fabric conditioner bottles
Excellent chemical resistance Snack food boxes and cereal box liners
Hard to semi-flexible and strong Milk and non-carbonated drinks bottles
Soft waxy surface Toys, buckets, rigid pipes, crates, plant pots
Permeable to gas Plastic wood, garden furniture
HDPE films crinkle to the touch Wheeled refuse bins, compost containers
Pigmented bottles stress resistant

Excellent transparency Credit cards
Hard, rigid (flexible when plasticised) Carpet backing and other floor covering
Good chemical resistance Window and door frames, guttering
Long term stability Pipes and fittings, wire and cable sheathing
Good weathering ability Synthetic leather products
Stable electrical properties
Low gas permeability

Low Density
Tough and flexible Films, fertiliser bags, refuse sacks
Waxy surface Packaging films, bubble wrap
Soft – scratches easily Flexible bottles
Good transparency Irrigation pipes
Low melting point Thick shopping bags (clothes and produce)
Stable electrical properties Wire and cable applications
Good moisture barrier properties Some bottle tops

Excellent chemical resistance Most bottle tops
High melting point Ketchup and syrup bottles
Hard, but flexible Yoghurt and some margarine containers
Waxy surface Potato crisp bags, biscuit wrappers
Translucent Crates, plant pots, drinking straws
Strong Hinged lunch boxes, refrigerated containers
Fabric/ carpet fibres, heavy duty bags/tarpaulins

Clear to opaque Yoghurt containers, egg boxes
Glassy surface Fast food trays
Rigid or foamed Video cases
Hard Vending cups and disposable cutlery
Brittle Seed trays
High clarity Coat hangers
Affected by fats and solvents Low cost brittle toys

There are other polymers that have a
wide range of uses, particularly in
engineering sectors. They are identified
with the number 7 and OTHER (or a
triangle with numbers from 7 to 19).

Nylon (PA)
Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS)
Polycarbonate (PC)
Layered or multi-material mixed polymers.


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