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Sep 22

What do these Numbers Mean?

Posted on September 22, 2020 at 9:23 AM by Natalie Nebilak


As much as we try to eliminate plastic from our purchases, we will no doubt end up with at least a few bottles or items made from it. Maybe we say to ourselves "Well, it's ok because at least I can recycle plastic." True, but not all plastics have the same recycling power. Have you ever wondered what the numbers in the recycling icons mean? These are symbols that can help us to determine how much "recycling power" a piece of plastic has. To better understand the plastics in our life, let's get specific and jump into deciphering these recycling numbers.

PET (polyethylene terephthalate) is the most common plastic for single-use beverage bottles because it's lightweight and inexpensive. Other uses include salad dressing containers, peanut butter jars, and other similar bottles. These are picked up by most recycling programs, so be sure to put these bottles clean and loose in the recycling bin.

Also known as high density polyethylene, this type of plastic is lightweight and very strong, easily molded into many shapes and resists mold, mildew and rotting. This type of plastic caries low-risk of leaching into the contents it holds. It is often used in milk jugs, juice bottles, laundry detergents, shampoos, yogurt tubs, and household cleaning products. These are picked up by most recycling programs, so be sure to put these bottles clean and loose in the recycling bin.

PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride and is a tougher plastic that weathers well. Common PVC plastics are piping, toys, garden hoses, chemical containers, and some outdoor furniture. Because chlorine is a component of PVC, the manufacturing of this process can release dangerous dioxins during manufacturing, and this plastic (along with all plastics) should never be burned as it will release these toxins. PVC plastics can not be recycled in Ventura, so place it in the trash bin. If you have items that are in good condition, consider donating to a local charity to give the item another life and keep it out of the landfill.

Low density polyethylene if a flexible plastic that is used to make film plastics like grocery bags, bread bags, and dry cleaning bags. These plastics are not traditionally recyclable, meaning you cannot recycling them in the blue bin. However, these plastics can be recycled by collecting them and dropping them off at participating film plastic recycling locations. You can view all participating locations in the City of Ventura by reading our blog on Film Plastic Recycling. Do not include film plastic in the recycling bin.

5 PP
Polypropylene is often used for some yogurt containers syrup and medicine bottle, caps, and straws. It is also used for containers that will hold warm/hot liquids since this plastic has a might melting point. Ventura does not have a great market for these types of plastic and should be avoided when possible. Look for a #1 or #2 alternative. They can be placed in the recycle bin if they are clean, but it is unlikely that they will be recycled, so please avoid.

6 PS
Polystyrene (commonly known as the trademarked Styrofoam) is a rigid foam product commonly found in disposable plates, cups, takeout containers, and some packaging products. The components of this plastic can leach into foods and liquids. Polystyrene aso breaks into small pieces very easily, making them extremely dangerous for the environment as these small (sometimes microscopic) can be carried easily into waterways and seep into soil. Unfortunately, polystyrene is not currently accepted by recycling facilities in Ventura so avoid at all cost. If you do need to dispose of polystyrene products, place them in the trash bin, and be sure to tie the trash bag tight so they don't futter around once picked up by trash services. 

Other plastics included in this category include plastic resins and polycarbonates, commonly found in 3 - 5 gallon water jugs, sunglasses, DVD's, phone cases, and certain food containers. If you find a HARD PLASTIC with  a number 7, you can place this in the recycle bin. 

While most of these plastics are technically recyclable, some are more easy to recycle than others. When possible, if you must purchase items that come in/with plastic containers, opt for options that have a #1 or #2 recycling icon. These type of plastics are considered to have a very stable domestic market, meaning it is highly likely these items will be recycled after collection. Other plastics aren't so lucky as you can see by the graphic below.


REMEMBER, it is best to REDUCE and REUSE before we RECYCLE. And always place recycling clean and loose in the bin.
  • To learn more about the state of recycling in Ventura, check out our blog entry HERE.
  • For more information on what recyclables Gold Coast Recycling & Transfer Station will accept, visit their website HERE.