Plastics – Resin Codes. What do they mean?

As part of our short article series on plastic, we have so far looked at the basics of what each recycling symbol means. However, within this article, we have decided to take it one step further and delve deeper into resin codes and explain what each label means.

What is a Resin Code?

Resin codes originated from the Society of the Plastics Industry back in 1988. However, they were only administered in 2008 through the ASTM International Resin Identification Coding System (RIC). From this, resin codes have been placed on almost every piece of plastic which will continue for the foreseeable future.

What’s The Purpose?

A plastic resin code, or ‘Resin Identification Code’, shows the consumer which type of plastic resin was used to make the chosen product, whether that be a plastic bottle, container or jug. The resin is usually defined between 1-7, and the relevant number will appear in the centre of the arrows on the label that is placed on the product.

What Do They Mean?

Within the UK, codes 1 and 2 can usually be recycled. However, resin code 3 is not typically collected from households and is in decline. With the introduction of the plastic bag tax, resin code 4 now means that plastic bags can be given back to supermarkets for reuse. Finally, resin code 5 and 6 are usually now recycled whereas resin 7 is usually not.

Here is some more information on which polymers each resin coder relates to, and what they are commonly used in:

Abbreviation and Polymer Name

Resin CodeAbbreviation and Polymer NameUses 
 1 PETE:
Polyethylene Terephthalate
  • Polyester fibres, or Polar Fleece
  • Thermoformed sheet
  • Strapping
  • Soft drink bottles
  • Tote bags
  • Furniture
  • Carpet
  • Panelling
  • Occasionally, new containers
 Resin Code 11 PETE1 PET
2 HDPE:
High-density Polyethylene

 

  • Bottles
  • Grocery bags
  • Milk jugs
  • Recycling bins
  • Agricultural pipe
  • Base cups
  • Car stops
  • Playground equipment
  • Plastic lumber
 Resin Code 22 HDPE02 PE-HD
PVC:
Polyvinyl Chloride

 

  • Pipe
  • Window profile
  • Siding
  • Fencing
  • Flooring
  • Shower curtains
  • Lawn chairs
  • Non-food bottles
  • Children's toys
 Resin Code 33 03 PVC
LDPE:
Low-density Polyethylene
  • Plastic bags
  • Six pack rings
  • Various containers
  • Dispensing bottles
  • Wash bottles
  • Tubing
  • Various moulded laboratory equipment
 Resin Code 44 LDPE04 PE-LD
PP:
Polypropylene

 

  • Auto parts
  • Industrial fibres
  • Food containers
  • Dishware
 Resin Code 55 PP05 PP
PS:
Polystyrene

 

  • Desk accessories
  • Cafeteria trays
  • Plastic utensils
  • Toys
  • Video cassettes and cases
  • Clamshell containers
  • Packaging peanuts, insulation board and other expanded polystyrene products (e.g. styrofoam)
 Resin Code 66 PS06 PS

OTHER or O:
Other Plastics

 

 
  • Acrylic
  • Nylon
  • Polycarbonate, and polylactic acid (a bioplastic)
  • Multilayer combinations of different plastics
 Resin Code 77 Other07 O

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