The Types of Plastics and Their Classifications
Other Lessons in This Course
- Types of Plastic
- Types of Plastic
- Polypropylene Fabric vs. Polyester Fabric
- Differences Between Pill and No-Pill Fleece
- 50/50 vs. 100% Cotton T-Shirts
- What is Neoprene?
- Different Types of Lead
- BPA Promotional Products
- What is Proposition 65?
- Ounces in Garments
When it comes to promotional giveaways, and even items we use around the house, there is no material more important than plastic. Read on to learn about the types of plastic and their uses, as well as the resin identification codes used for the popular plastic products you use almost every day.
Plastic is an essential component of numerous consumer products, including water bottles and product containers. However, not every kind of plastic is the same.Take a look at the most common types of plastic and examples of products with each plastic resin code.
In 1988, the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) established a classification system to help consumers and recyclers properly recycle and dispose of each different type based on its chemical makeup. Today, manufacturers follow a coding system and place a number, or SPI code, on each plastic product, usually molded into the bottom. Although you should always verify the plastic classification number of each product you use, especially if you plan on recycling it, this guide provides a basic outline of the different plastic types associated with each code number.
Today, manufacturers follow a coding system and place a number, or SPI code, on each plastic product, usually molded into the bottom. Although you should always verify the plastic classification number of each product you use, especially if you plan on recycling it, this guide provides a basic outline of the different plastic types associated with each code number.
Plastic marked with an SPI Code of 1 is made with polyethylene terephthalate, which is also know as PETE or PET.
Plastic marked with an SPI code of 1 is made with polyethylene terephthalate, which is also known as PETE or PET. PETE-based containers sometimes absorb odors and flavors from foods and drinks that are stored inside of them. Items made from this plastic are commonly recycled. PETE plastic is used to make many common household items like beverage bottles, medicine jars, peanut butter jars, combs, bean bags, and rope. Recycled PETE is used to make tote bags, carpet, fiberfill material in winter clothing, and more.
PETE plastics make up 96% of all plastic bottles and containers in the United States, yet only 25% of these products are recycled. By being mindful and making sure to recycle code 1 plastics, many new products can be created including: textiles, carpets, pillow stuffing, and even life jackets!
The SPI code of 2 identifies plastic made with high-density polyethylene, or HDPE.
The SPI code of 2 identifies plastic made with high-density polyethylene, or HDPE. HDPE products are very safe and are not known to leach any chemicals into foods or drinks. (However, due to the risk of contamination from previously held substances, please note: it is NEVER safe to reuse an HDPE bottle as a food or drink container if it didn’t originally contain food or drink!) HDPE products are commonly recycled. Items made from this plastic include containers for milk, motor oil, shampoos and conditioners, soap bottles, detergents, and bleaches. Many personalized toys are made from this plastic as well. Recycled HDPE is used to make plastic crates, plastic lumber, fencing, and more.
HDPE is the most commonly recycled plastic because it will not break under exposure to extreme heat or cold. According to the EPA, 12% of plastic bags and film were recycled in 2007. Of course, we are looking to move toward a society of reusable bags versus using the plastic grocery store variety.
Plastic labeled with an SPI code of 3 is made with polyvinyl chloride, or PVC.
Plastic labeled with an SPI code of 3 is made with polyvinyl chloride, or PVC. PVC is not often recycled and can be harmful if ingested. PVC is used for all kinds of pipes and tiles, but it's most commonly found in plumbing pipes. This kind of plastic should not come in contact with food items. Recycled PVC is used to make flooring, mobile home skirting, and other industrial-grade items.
PVC is one of the less recycled materials, generally less than 1% of PVC plastic is recycled each year. It has been called the “poison plastic” because it contains numerous toxins and is harmful to our health and the environment.
Plastic Marked With An SPI Code Of 4 Is Made With Low-Density Polyethylene, Or LDPE
Plastic marked with an SPI code of 4 is made with low-density polyethylene, or LDPE. LDPE is not commonly recycled, but it is recyclable in certain areas. It tends to be both durable and flexible. It also is not known to release harmful chemicals into objects in contact with it, making it a safe choice for food storage. Plastic cling wrap, sandwich bags, squeezable bottles, and plastic grocery bags all are made from LDPE. Recycled LDPE is used to make garbage cans, lumber, furniture, and many other products seen in and around the house.
Packaging and containers make up about 56% of all plastic waste, 75% of which comes from residential households. Fortunately, many recycling programs are evolving to be able to handle LDPE products. This means less will end up in landfill and negatively affect the environment!
Consumers Will Find The SPI Code Of 5 On Plastic Items Made With Polypropylene Or PP.
Consumers will find the SPI code of 5 on plastic items made with polypropylene, or PP. PP can be recycled but is not accepted for recycling as commonly as PETE or HDPE. This type of plastic is strong and can usually withstand higher temperatures. Among many other products, it is used to make plastic diapers, Tupperware, margarine containers, yogurt boxes, syrup bottles, prescription bottles, and some stadium cups. Plastic bottle caps often are made from PP as well. Recycled PP is used to make ice scrapers, rakes, battery cables, and similar items that need to be durable.
Only about 3% of polypropylene products are recycled in the US, but interestingly enough 325 million pounds of non-bottle plastics were collected for recycling. In other words, a lot of this plastic is created every year, but only a small fraction of it is actually recycled.
Plastic Marked With An SPI Code Of 6 Is Made With Polystyrene, Also Known As PS And Most Commonly Known As Styrofoam.
Plastic marked with an SPI code of 6 is made with polystyrene, also known as PS and most commonly known as Styrofoam. PS can be recycled, but not efficiently; recycling it takes a lot of energy, which means that few places accept it. Disposable coffee cups, plastic food boxes, plastic cutlery, packing foam, and packing peanuts are made from PS. Recycled PS is used to make many different kinds of products, including insulation, license plate frames, and custom rulers.
Since polystyrene is lightweight and easy to form into plastic materials, it also breaks easily, making it more harmful to the environment. Beaches all over the world are littered with pieces of polystyrene, endangering the health of marine animals. This material accounts for about 35% of US landfill materials.
The SPI Code Of 7 Is Used To Designate Miscellaneous Types Of Plastic That Are Not Defined By The Other 6 Codes.
The SPI code of 7 is used to designate miscellaneous types of plastic that are not defined by the other six codes. Polycarbonate and polylactide are included in this category. Plastic CDs and DVDs These types of plastics are difficult to recycle. Polycarbonate, or PC, is used in baby bottles, large water bottles (multiple-gallon capacity), compact discs, and medical storage containers. Recycled plastics in this category are used to make plastic lumber, among other products.
Many BPA products fall into this category, which means it's best to avoid #7 plastics, especially for food products. It is not very easy to break down these plastics once they are created, unless they are exposed to high temperatures. A typical backyard compost isn’t powerful enough to biodegrade this plastic material.
Why should I care?
Learning about the different types of plastics and SPI resin codes can help consumers like you make more informed decisions related to your health. Plus, being knowledgeable about the 7 types of plastics can help recyclers sort their materials more effectively.
Understanding Your Plastic
While the plastic resin codes don’t necessarily indicate the toxins used in the plastics, it is useful to be able to distinguish between the different kinds of plastics. SPI codes for plastics help you better understand the products you’re using and how they affect your health and the environment.
Recycling These Products
The products we use can have a serious impact on the environment, which is why being able to identify a plastic’s SPI code is more important now than ever before. Luckily, most of the different types of plastic are relatively easy to recycle. Check with your local recycling service to find out what kinds of plastic are acceptable.
Recycling is an important way to ensure sustainability and a green planet for future generations. Being mindful with your plastics can make all the difference in the world to the health of the environment. In fact, for every 1 ton of plastic that’s recycled, an estimated 7 yards of landfill space is saved. And with 80% of Americans having easy access to plastics recycling programs, there’s no excuse to be anything other than green!
Remember, informed consumers can demand that plastic manufacturers provide better products. So keep these plastic classification numbers and plastic types in mind, and don't forget to put your newfound knowledge to use—always check a product's classification code prior to recycling it or re-using it!