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Understanding plastic recycling symbols

The little symbols that relate to recycling and are found on product packaging can look like a foreign language at first, but deciphering those symbols can help you make better recycling decisions.

In regards to plastic, these symbols are a triangle formed of arrows with the numbers 1-7 inside and letters beneath relating to the type of resin used to form the product. If you’ve ever wondered what the plastic symbols mean or are struggling to understand the differences between them, then read on for a short guide:


This is the symbol you are likely to see on most plastic bottles or fruit punnets. It means the product is made from polyethylene terephthalate. These types of plastics are nearly always collected by local councils through domestic recycling.


These products are formed of high-density polyethylene. This is seen on domestic packaging such as shampoo bottles and is widely collected by local councils through household recycling schemes.


Items with this symbol contain polyvinyl chloride and include things like toys and drain pipes. These are not routinely collected by local councils. Households or business with large amounts of this waste item may need to use a specialist recycling service.


This is generally seen on plastic carrier bags and means the product is made from low-density polyethylene. Some of these items need to be taken to a local tip or removed by a local recycling service, while plastic bags can simply be returned to supermarkets.

PP 5

This stands for low-density polyethylene and although it may be a symbol seen on common household items such as margarine pots, it’s not widely collected by councils.

PS 6

Items such as polystyrene cups fall into this category, which again require specialist recycling services.

Other 7

Many other items such as those that are made from acrylic nylon or polycarbonate fall into this category, as do mixed plastic items. Businesses with a lot of waste in this category will need to enlist a local recycling firm to dispose of it.

Companies or households that are based in Wales and need a local recycling service to deal with certain plastics can enlist our help at GD Environmental.