Can I Recycle This? Your Guide to Recycling and Recycling Codes

We are slowly waking up to the fact that our lifestyles are having a profound effect on the planet which sustains us, with our average carbon output in the UK being around 6.5 tonnes, per person, per year. To put that into perspective, each person would have to plant 1,000 trees annually to counteract this.

As most of us won’t be able to plant 1,000 trees this year, more and more of us are trying to counteract our carbon output by living a more sustainable lifestyle and ‘reducing, reusing and recycling’ where possible – which is a huge step in the right direction! 

Thanks to the 'plastic crisis' being highlighted in mainstream media of late, in programmes such as Blue Planet II and War on Plastic, we have been conditioned to avoid using plastics. Whilst it's important to consider the impact of the materials we use, the main issues lie within the 
collection, separation and recycling of plastics.

We often get asked about which of our products you can and can’t recycle, so we’ve pulled together a helpful guide to assist you in your life as an everyday activist!

Recycling Codes Explained

Common recycling symbols

A. The ‘Mobius Loop’ – an unfamiliar name of a, hopefully, very familiar icon! This indicates that the product can be recycled. Occasionally this icon has a percentage figure in the middle, indicating how much of the product comes from recycled materials.


B. This icon means that the product is widely recycled by 75% or more of local authorities. If products have more than one component to them, you will often find each component is labelled on the side.


C. Not collected by all local authorities. It is recommended that you check locally if you are unsure.


D. Indicates packaging is recycled by less than 20% of local authorities.


E. Product is made from recyclable aluminium.


F. Glass used to make product is recyclable. Note: remember that coloured glass must be separated.


G. The three-arrowed triangle icon can be found on plastics, with the number in the centre indicating the resin code for the type of plastic used. Read on for more on plastic resin codes and what they mean.


H. The producer of this packaging contributes to a packaging recovery scheme.

Traidcraft packaging with recycling symbols on

Pretty simple, right?


Now, for something a little trickier to get your head around. The following symbols can be found on almost all forms of modern plastic; have a look at our handy guide on what each symbol means and make sure you’re fully recycling savvy.

Plastic Recycling Codes Explained


Plastic recycling code 1
Plastic Recycling Code 1: PET or PETE 
Info: This is the most common plastic for single-use, bottled beverages as it is lightweight, cheap to manufacture and easy to recycle.
Where would I find this symbol? Most soft drinks/water bottles, mouthwash, salad dressing bottles, medicine bottles, some yoghurt pots.
Can be recycled? YES
Where can I recycle this plastic? Plastics with this symbol can usually be recycled with your kerbside waste collection.
What can this plastic be recycled into? Food containers, bottles, carpet, furniture, tote bags and insulating fleece for clothing.


Plastic recycling code 2
Plastic Recycling Code 2: HDPE 
Info: This is another common plastic with many uses, especially for packaging.
Where would I find this symbol? Most milk bottles, household cleaning product bottles, toiletries such as shampoo bottles, butter tubs and cereal box liners.
Can be recycled? YES
Where can I recycle this plastic? Plastics with this symbol can usually be recycled with your kerbside waste collection.
What can this plastic be recycled into? Pens, floor tiles, shampoo bottles and household cleaning product bottles.


Plastic recycling code 3
Plastic Recycling Code 3: PVC 
Info: This is an extremely cheap plastic and burning it releases dangerous toxins.
Where would I find this symbol? Generally found in pipes, cables, pool liners, furniture and toys.
Can be recycled? Rarely – it may be accepted by some makers of plastic lumber.
Where can I recycle this plastic? Nowhere readily.
What can this plastic be recycled into? Speed bumps, flooring, cables, mud flaps.


Plastic recycling code 4
Plastic Recycling Code 4: LDPE 
Info: This is a light, low density plastic which is regularly used to make many thin, flexible products like plastic bags.
Where would I find this symbol? Typically on squeezy bottles, frozen food bags, bread wrappers, cling film and carrier bags.
Can be recycled? Carrier bags, yes. For other items, we advise that you check packaging for additional instructions or check with your local waste disposal unit.
Where can I recycle this plastic? Carrier bags only – can be recycled at recycling centres or most supermarkets.
What can this plastic be recycled into? The likes of compost bins, bin liners and flooring.


Plastic recycling code 5


Plastic Recycling Code 5: PP 
Info: This plastic has a high melting point, so is great for hot food containers and microwavable containers.
Where would I find this symbol? Straws, some yoghurt pots, bottle caps, condiment bottles, plastic food containers. The Fulcrum film which holds our greetings cards together in their packs is made of this plastic, too.
Can be recycled? Typically, yes – through some kerbside waste collections.
Where can I recycle this plastic? We advise to check with your local waste collectors to check.
What can this plastic be recycled into? Auto parts, bicycle racks, pallets, trays and industrial fibres.


Plastic recycling code 6

Plastic Recycling Code 6: PS 

Info: This plastic is easy to form and mould, making it extremely versatile.
Where would I find this symbol? On the likes of polystyrene disposable cups, meat trays, disposable cutlery, takeaway packaging, packaging foam and CD sleeves.
Can be recycled? Yes, but it is notoriously difficult to.
Where can I recycle this plastic? Through some kerbside waste management collections, although we always recommend checking with your local collectors to make sure, as this can differ between regions.
What can this plastic be recycled into? Examples include flower pots, cafeteria trays, egg cartons, foam packaging, take away containers, toys, tape dispensers.


Plastic recycling code 7

Plastic codes which are more readily recyclable

Plastic Recycling Code 7: OTHER 

Info: This covers everything else, like resins and multimaterials.
Where would I find this symbol? Any other plastics which don’t fall under recycling codes 1 – 6, like ‘bullet-proof’ material, DVDs, nylon, sunglasses
Can be recycled? Widely no, although some kerbside waste collections do now accept this type of plastic so check with your local collectors.
Where can I recycle this plastic? Some kerbside waste collections
What can this plastic be recycled into? Plastic lumber.

Remember, not all packaging has a recycling label, but that doesn’t mean you can’t recycle it and should write it off for landfill. Remember to separate your compostable materials (such as the foil inners of the Eat Your Hat chocolate range, the new Traidcraft sweets packaging and the Traidcraft chocolate inners), as these could contaminate a recyclable plastic load.

If you’re unsure, either contact the company you bought the item from or check with your local council. 

Download our guide here and keep it handy >>




Published at: 02-03-2020
Tags: Recycling Sustainability