What do the numbers and symbols on plastics mean?

While householders are encouraged to recycle as many items as possible, it's important to remember that not all plastics which show the plastic symbol (see the table below) mean that the item is automatically recyclable in a kerbside collection system.

If you use a yellow-lid bin for recycling, a handy tip to remember is that if it the plastic container:

  • holds its shape when crumpled, and/or
  • would hold liquid

then that item is suitable for recycling and can be placed into your yellow lid bin.

All rigid plastics labelled from 1 – 6 can be put in the kerbside recycling bin. However, lightweight polystyrene, such as used for meat trays, packaging (including foam packing 'peanuts') and hot drink cups should not be put in kerbside recycle bins.

Here's a quick guide to which plastics can and cannot be placed in your yellow lid recycling bin:

Symbol

Type of plastic

Characteristics

Uses for this plastic

Accepted in kerbside collection?

PET

Polyethylene Terephthalate
PET

Clear, tough, solvent resistant plastic, often used as a fibre. Carbonated soft drink bottles, detergent bottles. tick-yes
HDPE

High Density Polyethylene
HDPE

Very common plastic, usually white or coloured. Milk and cream bottles, shampoo bottles, cleaning products. tick-yes
PVC Polyvinyl Chloride
PVC
Hard, rigid plastic, may be clear. Clear cordial and juice bottles. tick-yes
LDPE Low Density Polyethylene
LDPE
Soft, flexible plastic - waxy surface. Squeeze bottles. tick-yes
pp Polypropylene
PP
Hard but still flexible plastic. Ice cream containers and lids, plastic take away containers. tick-yes
PS Polystyrene
PS
Clear, glassy, rigid, brittle plastic.
Yoghurt containers and margarine/ butter containers. tick-yes
OTHER OTHER Includes all other plastics and soft plastics including acrylic and nylon. cross - no
EPS Expanded Polystyrene
EPS
Foamed, light weight, energy absoring, heat insulating. Packaging, meat trays, hot drink cups, foam packing 'peanuts'. cross - no