Know your plastics

How to easily identify the types of Plastics

Hey you!

Stop a minute. See that bottle of Coke or Pepsi in your hand, look under it. What do you see?

At the bottom of the bottle is a triangular sign with a number inscribed on it.

Do you know what the number means?

Here’s the thing, every plastic made either in a bottle, food containers or gallon form is made from a type of resin.

What are Resins?

Resins are thick and sticky clear substances made from plants or trees and used to make plastics. They are often mixtures of organic compounds, principally terpenes.

Resins are created with heat that cracks the hydrocarbons; this is called the cracking process.

After cracking is done, the different compounds created are formed into a chain. This chain is known as a polymer.

Creating different chains and polymers is what allows resin companies to create plastics that have different characteristics.

What do the numbers inside the recycling symbol mean?

These symbols created by plastic manufacturers are numbered 1 to 7, and they help to identify the type of resins the plastics were made from, the chemicals in them, whether or not they are recyclable, if they are safe or harmful to the health, amongst other things.


Our favourite Coca-cola and Pepsi bottles are the most common containers made out of PET or PETE (this is why they are called ‘pet bottles’)

PET bottles are recyclable. However, we should avoid reusing them. PET ought to be used once; repeated use increases the risk of leaching and bacterial growth. It is also very difficult to clean or remove harmful chemicals from them.

So feel free to tell your neighbour who reuses PET bottles to package her Zobo that it is wrong and harmful to your health.


Oil bottles, yogurt tubs, shampoo bottles are made from HDPE. It’s a very common plastic and one of the safest to use. It’s also fully recyclable and transmits no known chemicals into food.


PVC on the other hand is used for a lot of plastic food wrapping because it is soft and flexible (remember that cover used to package your sandwich, yes that’s it).

It is important to avoid reusing PVC products, especially for food or for children’s use. They contain toxins which leach throughout its entire life cycle, they also contain Polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) latex that interferes with hormonal development.


Your plastic bags (nylon, waterproof) are made from LDPE. You’ll also find LDPE in dry-cleaner garment bags. Though most plastic bags are not recyclable, they are reusable and safe to repurpose.


Polypropylene plastic is used in those margarine and yogurt containers, straws etc. Polypropylene is recyclable and is also considered safe for reuse.


Avoid Polystyrene! Avoid Polystyrene!! Avoid Polystyrene!!!

This cannot be stressed enough

PS is used for disposable Styrofoam drinking cups, the so-called take away containers (foil), paper egg crates etc.

Polystyrene is generally not recyclable because it breaks apart very easily. There’s also a possibility of it leaching human carcinogen into food products (especially when heated in a microwave!).


Let’s just say that nothing that has to do with the number 7 can be recycled or reused. BPA can leak chemicals. It also contains bisphenol A which is linked to obesity and heart diseases. So it’s best to run away from it.

Below is an image showing the identification of these plastics and their use. It’s important to read, study and save them somewhere at the back of your mind.

Remember to trust scrapays.com with your recyclables and get cash in return.


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