What Plastics Can & Cannot Be Recycled?

This is a quick guide outlining the types of plastics and plastic products that can and cannot recycled (we already put together a guide outlining what the different plastics can be recycled into)

We also outline how to find out the requirements of recycling plastic in your area you live in.


Summary – Plastics That Can Be Recycled, & How To Find Out What Can Be Recycled In Your Area

What Plastics Can Be Recycled?

– Some of the most widely recycled plastics are PET (Plastic #1) and HDPE (Plastic #2)

– Examples of #1 and #2 plastics are:

Plastic #1 – Soft drink bottles and other hard plastic bottles, and other hard plastic containers and bottles

Plastic #2 – Milk jugs, cleaner and shampoo bottles, and other stiff plastic bottles, jugs and containers


Checking What Plastic Types & Plastic Products Can Be Recycled In Your Local Area

– Search online for your government’s curbside recycling programs

– Search for private recycling programs in your area

– You should be able to see information for the types of plastic and types of products that can be recycled, and how to sort them into your bins to be recycled


Types Of Plastic

There are different types of plastic (read about here), but then there are also products that contain plastic that are manufactured in different ways.

A plastic type might be recyclable, but because of the way a plastic product is manufactured, it might be hard to recycle or non recyclable – a sport drink bottle can be an example of this with 3 or 4 different types of plastic.


What Plastics Can, & Cannot Be Recycled?

It depends on the capability of the recycling system in your community, suburb or area.

Generally, you can check on the government/council/recycling organisation website about what you can or cannot put in the recycling bins provided (types of plastic products). Google ‘[your city or municipality name + recycling]’.

For example – in San Francisco – they list the plastics you can recycle at https://sfrecycles.org/

The City Of Melbourne also lists what you can put in your recycling bin at https://www.melbourne.vic.gov.au/residents/waste-recycling/Pages/what-goes-in-your-bins.aspx 

Otherwise, you can ring the recycling collection organisation and ask them directly about specific plastics and types of plastic products, and how to clean or prepare them for putting in the recycling bin.

Note that this is municipal recycling – industrial/commercial recycling can be more specialised and obviously different.


In general, these might be the types of plastics that can and can’t be recycled in developed countries:

LD, LDPE – non recyclable

PP – sometimes recycled depending on local context

PP&A Fibers – sometimes recycled depending on local context

HDPE – widely recycled

PET – widely recycled

PS – non recyclable

PUT – non recyclable

PVC – sometimes recycled depending on local context

Other polymer types – non recyclable

– ourworldindata.org


PETE or PET – recyclable

HDPE – recyclable

PVC – sometimes recyclable

LDPE – sometimes recyclable

PP – not recyclable

PS – not recyclable

Other plastics like nylon and styrene – not recyclable

– qualitylogoproducts.com


And in terms of plastic products:

Plastic Bags – not recyclable

Straws – not recyclable

Coffee Cups – a special machine is needed to recycle them

– blog.nationalgeographic.org


A note on soft plastic such as plastic straws and plastic bags

These items often can’t be recycled with hard plastics and other plastic items because of different issues like contamination, or the plastic gets stuck in recycling machinery

But – some cities do offer services specific soft plastic recycling services. You can search online for them in your area 


Examples Of The Above Plastics

You can google ‘Plastics 1-7 examples’ and it should come up with examples of the above plastics in tables for you. 

We see Plastic #1 (PET), and Plastic #2 (HDPE) are some of the most widely recycled plastics.

Examples of these plastics are:

Plastic #1 – Soft drink bottles and other hard plastic bottles, and other hard plastic containers and bottles

Plastic #2 – Milk jugs, cleaner and shampoo bottles, and other stiff plastic bottles, jugs and containers


You can see examples of Plastics #3 to #7 that usually can’t be recycled or aren’t recycled widely at https://learn.eartheasy.com/articles/plastics-by-the-numbers/

You can look for the recycling code or symbol on the plastic product too.


What Can Different Plastics Be Recycled Into, or Repurposed For?

This guide can shed more light on what plastic types and plastic items can be recycled and what they may be recycled into.



1. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/the-different-types-of-plastic-how-many-there-are-what-they-are-most-commonly-produced-what-they-are-used-for-which-types-can-be-recycled-more/

2. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/reasons-why-some-plastic-cant-be-recycled/ 

3. https://sfrecycles.org/ 

4. https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/plastic-waste-polymer 

5. https://www.qualitylogoproducts.com/promo-university/different-types-of-plastic.htm 

6. https://www.melbourne.vic.gov.au/residents/waste-recycling/Pages/what-goes-in-your-bins.aspx

7. https://blog.nationalgeographic.org/2018/04/04/7-things-you-didnt-know-about-plastic-and-recycling/

8. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/what-can-plastic-be-recycled-into-reused-repurposed-for/

9. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/should-we-ban-plastic-bags-are-they-better-or-worse-than-other-types-of-bags/

10. https://learn.eartheasy.com/articles/plastics-by-the-numbers/

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