Recycling codes are used to identify the materials out of which the item is made, to facilitate easier recycling process. The presence on an item of a recycling code, a chasing arrows logo, or a resin code, is not an automatic indicator that a material is recyclable; it is an explanation of what the item is made of. Codes have been developed for batteries, biomatter/organic material, glass, metals, paper, and plastics. Various countries have adopted different codes. For example, the table below shows the polymer resin (plastic) codes. In the United States there are fewer, because ABS is placed with "others" in group 7.
A number of countries have a finer-grained system with more recycling codes. For example, China's polymer identification system has seven different classifications of plastic, five different symbols for post-consumer paths, and 140 identification codes. The lack of a code system in some countries has encouraged those who fabricate their own plastic products, such as RepRap and other prosumer 3-D printer users, to adopt a voluntary recycling code based on the more comprehensive Chinese system.
Resin identification codes and codes defined by the European Commission
|Plastics (see resin identification code) |
|[a]||1 PET(E)||Polyethylene terephthalate||Polyester fibers, soft drink bottles, food containers (also see plastic bottles)|
|[a]||2 PEHD or HDPE||High-density polyethylene||Plastic milk containers, plastic bags, bottle caps, trash cans, oil cans, plastic lumber, toolboxes, supplement containers|
|[a]||3 PVC||Polyvinyl chloride||Window frames, bottles for chemicals, flooring, plumbing pipes|
|[a]||4 PELD or LDPE||Low-density polyethylene||Plastic bags, Ziploc bags, buckets, squeeze bottles, plastic tubes, chopping boards|
|[a]||5 PP||Polypropylene||Flower pots, bumpers, car interior trim, industrial fibers, carry-out beverage cups, microwavable food containers, DVD keep cases|
|[a]||6 PS||Polystyrene||Toys, video cassettes, ashtrays, trunks, beverage/food coolers, beer cups, wine and champagne cups, carry-out food containers, Styrofoam|
|[a]||7 O (Other)||All other plastics||Polycarbonate (PC), polyamide (PA), styrene acrylonitrile (SAN), acrylic plastics/polyacrylonitrile (PAN), bioplastics|
|ABS||Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene||Monitor/TV cases, coffee makers, cell phones, calculators, most computer plastic, Lego bricks, most FFF 3D printed parts that are not bioplastic such as PLA|
|PA||Polyamide (Nylon)||Toothbrush bristles, socks, stockings, etc.|
|Batteries (see also battery recycling)|
|8 Lead||Lead–acid battery||Car batteries|
|9 Alkaline||Alkaline battery||TV Remote batteries, flashlight batteries|
|10 NiCD||Nickel–cadmium battery||Older batteries|
|11 NiMH||Nickel–metal hydride battery|
|12 Li||Lithium battery||Cell phone batteries, computer batteries, camera batteries|
|13 SO(Z)||Silver-oxide battery|
|14 CZ||Zinc–carbon battery||Flashlight batteries|
|20 PAP||Corrugated fiberboard (cardboard)||Cardboard boxes|
|21 PAP||Non-corrugated fiberboard (paperboard)||Cereal and snack boxes|
|22 PAP||Paper||Newspaper, books, magazines, wrapping paper, wallpaper, paper bags, paper straws|
|40 FE||Steel||Food cans|
|41 ALU||Aluminium||Soft drink cans, deodorant cans, disposable food containers, aluminium foil, heat sinks|
|50 FOR||Wood||Furniture, chopping boards, brooms, pencils, cocktail sticks, wooden spoons|
|51 FOR||Cork||Bottle stoppers, place mats, construction material|
|60 COT||Cotton||Towels, t-shirts, cotton buds/swabs, cotton pads|
|62-69 TEX||Other textiles|
|70 GL||Clear Glass||Food storage jars|
|71 GL||Green Glass||Wine bottles|
|72 GL||Brown Glass||Beer, light-sensitive products|
|73 GL||Dark Sort Glass|
|74 GL||Light Sort Glass|
|75 GL||Light Leaded Glass||Televisions, high-end electronics display glass like in calculators|
|76 GL||Leaded Glass||Older televisions, ash trays, older beverage holders|
|77 GL||Copper Mixed/Copper Backed Glass||Electronics, LCD display heads, clocks, watches|
|78 GL||Silver Mixed/Silver Backed Glass||Mirrors, formal table settings|
|79 GL||Gold Mixed/Gold Backed Glass||Computer glass, formal table settings|
|80 Paper||Paper and miscellaneous metals|
|81 PapPet||Paper + plastic||Consumer packaging, pet food bags, cold store grocery bags, Icecream containers, cardboard cans, disposable plates|
|82||Paper and fibreboard/Aluminium|
|83||Paper and fibreboard/Tinplate|
|84 C/PAP (or PapAl)||Paper and cardboard/plastic/aluminium||Liquid storage containers, juice boxes, cardboard cans, cigarette pack liners, gum wrappers, cartridge shells for blanks, fireworks colouring material, Tetra Brik.|
|85||Paper and fibreboard/Plastic/Aluminium/Tinplate|
|87 CSL (Card-Stock Laminate)||Biodegradable plastic||Laminating material, special occasion cards, bookmarks, business cards, flyers/advertising|
|90||Plastics/Aluminium||Plastic toothpaste tubes/some vacuum packed coffee bags|
Chinese codes for plastics products
The Standardization Administration of the People's Republic of China (SAC) has defined material codes for different types of plastics in the document GB 16288-2008. The numbers are consistent with RIC up to #6.
Alternative recycling labels
The following recycling label projects are designed with the consumer in mind while SPI or Resin Identification Codes are designed to be recognized by waste sorting facilities. They provide an alternative that eliminates confusion as people often mistake any resin code to be recyclable, but this is not necessarily true. The recyclability of the numbers depends on the abilities of the facilities in the community. Thus, they are not all automatically recyclable.
How2Recycle is a project that started in 2008. The label provides information about the packaging material and clearly indicates whether it is recyclable, partially or totally. If it is not recyclable at all, it is shown by a diagonal line going through the recycling label.
On-Pack Recycling Label used in the UK. It is very simple and only states whether it is recyclable or not.
- Resin identification code
- Japanese recycling symbols
- Waste hierarchy
- Waste management
- Food safe symbol
- Bag It (documentary)
- Standardization Administration of the People’s Republic of China (SAC) GB16288,2008. Marking of plastics products. Chinese Standard Publishing House, Beijing; 2008.
- Emily J. Hunt, Chenlong Zhang, Nick Anzalone, Joshua M. Pearce, Polymer recycling codes for distributed manufacturing with 3-D printers, Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 97, pp. 24-30 (2015). DOI:10.1016/j.resconrec.2015.02.004
- "EUR-Lex - 31997D0129 - EN - EUR-Lex". eur-lex.europa.eu. Retrieved 22 April 2018.
- Plastic Packaging Resins American Chemistry Council
- Marking of plastic dishes: see, deciphering markers in plastic containers Plastic how to grind plastic utensils
- Official Journal of the EC; Commission Decision (97/129/EC) establishing the ID system for packaging materials pursuant to European Parliament & Council Directive 94/62/EC
- Jessica Holbrook. Say so long to recycling code arrows. plasticnews.com. June 2013.
- Standardization Administration of the People’s Republic of China (SAC) GB 16288-2008. Marking of plastics products 塑料制品的标志. Chinese Standard Publishing House, Beijing; 2008, as cited in E. J. Hunt, C. Zhang, N.Anzalone, and J. M. Pearce. Polymer Recycling Codes for Distributed Manufacturing with 3-D Printers, Resources, Conservation and Recycling 97, pp. 24–30 (2015). DOI: 10.1016/j.resconrec.2015.02.004
- "Plastic by the Numbers".
- "Labels - How2Recycle". how2recycle.info.
- "Label Objectives".
- Christie Engineering Standard – Packaging Labeling and Design for Environment Guidelines Includes lists of material codes in several countries.
- Packaging Material Codes Includes lists of material codes in Germany.