Decoding Recycling Codes

Decoding Recycling Codes: What Do They Mean and Why They Matter

Have you ever looked at the bottom of a plastic container and noticed a small symbol with a number inside? These numbers are called recycling codes, and they play a crucial role in determining whether the item can be recycled or not.

Understanding what these codes mean can help you make informed decisions about your waste disposal and reduce your environmental impact. 

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at recycling codes and what they mean for you and the planet. 

By the end of this article, you will be able to identify and understand the different recycling codes and know how to properly dispose of plastic waste.

What Are Recycling Codes?

Recycling codes, you’ve seen them, those mysterious numbers enclosed within the chasing arrows symbol, usually found at the bottom of plastic containers. Have you ever wondered about their purpose?

Recycling codes are a set of symbols that are used to classify different types of materials that can be recycled. These codes are usually found on the bottom of plastic containers and are represented by a number within a triangle made of arrows. Each number corresponds to a different type of material, which makes it easier for recycling facilities to sort and process the materials.

Comprehending these codes aids in making responsible waste disposal choices and significantly contributes to global recycling efforts.

The Different Plastic Recycling Codes and Their Meaning

PET or PETE plastic recycling code

Code #1: PET or PETE (Polyethylene Terephthalate)

HDPE plastic recycling code

PET or PETE, standing for Polyethylene Terephthalate, is a plastic recycling code signifying the most common thermoplastic polymer resin for applications like beverage bottles, food containers, and clothing fibers. It is a widely recycled plastic, contributing to a more sustainable future when properly sorted and processed. Unfortunately, despite PET having one of the highest recycling market values, the recycling rate for PET remains relatively low, approximately 20%.

Code #2: HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene)

The recycling code HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene) represents a versatile and durable plastic widely used in everyday items. From milk jugs and detergent bottles to plastic lumber and pipes, HDPE thrives in applications requiring strength and resistance to chemicals and high temperatures. However, recycling HDPE requires a specific process involving purifying the impure HDPE, cutting it into small fragments, and melting it to create new products.

Code #3: PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)

PVC plastic recycling code

PVC, or Polyvinyl Chloride, signifies a versatile and widely used plastic in the recycling code. Its unique properties, including affordability, durability, and resistance to chemicals and moisture, make it ubiquitous in everyday products, from pipes and flooring to clothing and medical devices. However, due to its chemical composition, it is less recyclable.

The recycling process for PVC involves collection, sorting, shredding, washing, separation, grinding, melting, and forming.

Code #4: LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene)

LDPE is a type of plastic known for its soft and flexible properties. It is often used in plastic packaging such as plastic bags, squeeze bottles, six-pack rings, and shrinkwrap. However, LDPE has limited recycling options due to its low density and high air content. Nevertheless, some communities are starting to accept LDPE for recycling, and plastic shopping bags can generally be returned to stores for recycling.

Code #5: PP (Polypropylene)

PP plastic recycling code

Polypropylene or PP is a plastic known for its toughness, lightweightness, and heat resistance. Commonly used in straws, soft drink cups, and other food containers, its recycling process involves collection, sorting, cleaning, reprocessing by melting, and the production of new products from recycled PP.

Code #6: PS (Polystyrene)

PS, or Polystyrene, is a versatile and common plastic readily identified by the recycling code PS. It exists in two primary forms: solid and foamed. Solid PS is transparent, rigid, and brittle, while foamed PS is lightweight and an excellent insulator.

Other Common Recycling Codes

Beyond plastics, other materials such as glass, paper, and aluminum also have common recycling symbols. These symbols can guide us to recycle these materials properly and contribute to a more sustainable environment.

Glass Recycling Codes

Glass recycling codes are an essential tool for proper sorting and processing. The three main codes are:

  • GL-70: This signifies mixed glass, indicating any combination of clear, green, and brown glass. It’s the most common code and widely accepted by most recycling programs. 
  • GL-71: This represents clear glass, often used for bottles and jars. Recycling clear glass separately allows for its reprocessing into new clear products, maintaining its high quality. 
  • GL-72: This code identifies green glass, typically found in beer and wine bottles. Recycling green glass separately ensures its color consistency and facilitates the production of new green glass products. 

The glass recycling symbol tells us that the glass container is recyclable. Different colors of glass must be segregated during recycling, as they have different chemical compositions and melting points. Understanding these codes and following local recycling guidelines helps ensure proper glass sorting and contributes to a more sustainable environment.

Paper and Cardboard Recycling Symbols

Paper and cardboard recycling symbols are vital in helping us identify recyclable paper or cardboard products. They help ensure that only materials that can be recycled are collected, thereby reducing the amount of waste going to landfills.

PAP-20: Corrugated Fiberboard (Cardboard)

This code refers to corrugated cardboard, often used for boxes and shipping containers. It is one of the most widely accepted materials for recycling and can be transformed into new cardboard products.

PAP-21: Non-Corrugated Fiberboard (Paperboard)

This code signifies non-corrugated paperboard, typically found in cereal and snack boxes, shoe boxes, and file folders. While not as commonly accepted as PAP-20, many recycling programs still welcome this material.

PAP-22: Paper

This code represents paper, including newspapers, books, magazines, wrapping paper, wallpaper, paper bags, and paper straws. Most types of paper are accepted in recycling programs, but it’s essential to check local guidelines as some may have restrictions.

Other Paper and Cardboard Recycling Codes:

  • CU: Uncoated white paper
  • PCW: Post-consumer waste (paper that has already been used)
  • MWO: Mixed paper and cardboard
  • OCC: Old corrugated containers (used cardboard boxes)

Aluminum Recycling Symbols

Aluminum is one of the most recyclable materials on Earth, but like other materials, it uses specific codes to identify its type and facilitate proper sorting. Here are the most common aluminum recycling codes and their meanings:

ALU 41: This is the most common code for aluminum packaging, including soft drink cans, deodorant cans, disposable food containers, aluminum foil, and heat sinks. It indicates that the aluminum is clean and free of contaminants, making it highly recyclable.

ALU 42: This code signifies used aluminum beverage cans (UBCs). UBCs are considered a high-quality source of aluminum and are readily accepted by most recycling programs.

ALU 99: This code represents mixed aluminum scrap, often derived from industrial processes. It can include various aluminum items, such as siding, building materials, and automotive parts. While not as widely accepted as ALU 41 and 42, many recycling facilities can still process ALU 99 scrap. Learning to recognize these symbols can help in promoting the recycling of aluminum, a material that can be recycled indefinitely without losing its properties.

Choose Quad City Pitch It Junk Removal For Responsible Waste Disposal with

Recognizing recycling codes and symbols is just one aspect. Implementing responsible waste disposal in daily life is the other. And that’s where our service at Quad City Pitch It Junk Removal comes in.

Offering a comprehensive range of junk removal services, Quad City Pitch It Junk Removal is committed to promoting responsible waste disposal.

From residential and commercial junk removal to furniture and appliance removal, we offer a range of services to cater to different waste disposal needs. We take care of everything from collection to disposal, ensuring that all waste is handled in an environmentally responsible manner.

The Benefits of Choosing Quad City Pitch It Junk Removal Junk Removal Service

Hiring Quad City Pitch It Junk Removal offers several benefits including the following:

  • Saves you time and effort
  • Ensures that your waste is disposed of responsibly
  • They have the experience and expertise to handle any type of waste
  • They can dispose of waste in a way that minimizes environmental impact.

Tips for Better Recycling Practices at Home

Here are some tips to improve recycling practices at home:

Always Sort Properly and Clean the Materials

Proper sorting and cleaning of recyclables ensures that the right materials are fed into the recycling process, thereby allowing for more efficient processing of waste. Before discarding laundry detergent bottles, yogurt containers, medicine bottles, or any other plastic bottle, including shampoo bottles, into the recycling bin, ensure to rinse it out to avoid contamination.

Reduce Single-Use Plastics

Did you know that approximately half of the 300 million tons of plastic produced globally each year is used for single-use items? By reducing the use of single-use plastics, we can significantly decrease the volume of plastic waste that ends up in landfills and oceans.

Consider using reusable alternatives like bamboo cutlery, organic cotton bags for shopping, and reusable water bottles.

Educate Yourself and Others

Education is a powerful tool in promoting responsible waste disposal. By gaining knowledge and enlightening others about recycling codes and practices, we can raise awareness and motivate a larger group to recycle.

This can be done by sharing informative posts on social media, organizing educational workshops, or even writing blog posts about recycling programs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do those recycling symbols and codes mean?

Recycling symbols and codes are used to identify the materials out of which an item is made, with the presence of a symbol or code not necessarily indicating that it is recyclable. A number within the symbol indicates the type of material, and its properties determine how and where it can be recycled.

What can I do to improve recycling practices at home?

Properly sort and clean recyclables, reduce single-use plastic use and educate yourself and others on recycling to improve recycling practices at home.

Why is it important to reduce single-use plastics?

Reducing single-use plastics is essential for protecting the environment, as it reduces the amount of waste that accumulates in landfills and oceans. It also encourages sustainable living.


Understanding recycling codes and symbols is crucial in our journey towards responsible waste disposal and a more sustainable planet. With Quad City Pitch It Junk Removal, implementing responsible waste disposal practices has never been easier. Let’s all do our part in reducing waste and promoting a healthier environment for generations to come.

Don’t let clutter take over your home. Get rid of it all with just one call to Quad City Pitch It Junk Removal! We offer fast, affordable, and eco-friendly junk removal services, so you can reclaim your space and breathe easy.