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What Do Those Recycling Symbols Actually Mean?

What Do Those Recycling Symbols Actually Mean?
We’ve all seen them on the bottom of containers - the numbers centered in a triangle made of arrows. The truth is, those numbers can tell you a lot about how they’re made and how they should be handled. Lower numbered recycling materials are easier to dispose of through curbside recycling because waste haulers and recycling centers are more apt to take them. It’s always a good idea to ask how to handle the different numbered-items. Many household goods can go on to have second lives after being melted and reprocessed, but only after being properly sorted into their respective categories.

#1 - PETE or PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate)

This commonly recycled material is used for clear containers. You’ll find the #1 symbol on water and soda bottles, some medicine bottles, salad dressing and vegetable oils bottles, peanut butter containers and clear mouthwash bottles.

#2 - HDPE (High-density Polyethylene)

These usually opaque bottles are made to stand up to chemicals in the substances they’re holding, so you’ll often find them used for laundry detergent, shampoo and various toiletries. It’s also used for milk containers.

#3 - V or PVC (Vinyl)

Vinyl-based products aren’t usually the type to go in the recycling bin. Shower curtains and plumbing pipes are among those made with the #3 symbol. Most haulers won’t take them as regular recycling.

#4 - LDPE (Low-density Polyethylene)  This material is one which you may find your waste removal team or your recycling center accepts, but not all do, so check beforehand. Sandwich bags, squeezable bottled products like honey and some to-go plastic packaging are among those for which you might see #4.

#4 - LDPE (Low-density Polyethylene)

This material is one which you may find your waste removal team or your recycling center accepts, but not all do, so check beforehand. Sandwich bags, squeezable bottled products like honey and some to-go plastic packaging are among those for which you might see #4.

#5 - PP (Polypropylene)  

Once rejected by many recycling centers, #5s are increasingly accepted, but again, read the guidelines carefully. Polypropylene is used for plastic food storage containers, takeout packaging, medicine bottles and yogurt containers.

#6 - PS (Polystyrene)

Some disposable serving items fit into this category, such as cold drink cups, coffee cups, forks, knives and spoons. Some recycling centers take #6 items now, but usually not Styrofoam cups or packing materials, which are also made with polystyrene.

#7 - Miscellaneous

What’s life without a category of odds and ends? That’s why the #7 symbol was invented. It might be for an item which contains a combination of materials, or which is an unusual resin. Unless where you’re taking your recyclables specifically allows #7, don’t toss them in your bin.    

Still Not Sure?

“Sorting out” the confusion about recycling guidelines is what Central Kentucky Fiber Resources is all about. If your organization is concerned about a more ethical use of waste material, as well as how to optimize profits, we can help you with jobs both large and small. Contact us for more information and to schedule your free consultation!

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