Recycling Plastic

A brief guide to the different types of plastics, recyclable or not, that you see out in the wild. If you look at the bottom of a plastic jar, you will see a triangle “recycling” symbol, with a number in the middle.

That number indicates the type of plastic material. This videos shows examples of each plastic type.

Here are the numbers and their plastic names:

1 = PETE = Polyethylene Terephthalate – a clear, hard plastic common in clear food containers, water bottles.

2 = HDPE = High Density Polyethylene – “milk jug” plastic, translucent white or solid colored, like for laundry soap. Also, used to make thin, disposable bags that rustle.

3 = PVC = Polyvinyl Chloride – PVC pipe plastic, used to make hard parts, or flexible “fabric rubber” materials used in air mattresses, shower curtains. Also used for oil bottles and plastic wrap.

4 = LDPE = Low Density Polyethylene – Bread bag plastic, ziploc bags, reusable thick plastic grocery bags.

5 = PP = Polypropylene – Hard, heat resistant plastic that stands up to flexing. Used for chairs, plastic cutlery, buckets. Similar to HDPE, but tougher.

6 = PS = Polystyrene – Styrofoam. You know this stuff – lightweight, foam, soft, used to make disposable plates, packing material for shipping, and insulation.

7 = Whatever – unknown plastics, including polycarbonate. Not recyclable.

Scrap Plastic Values in Los Angeles

What are recyclable plastics worth? It depends, ranging from around 30 cents a pound to over $5 a pound (for 6 PS).

Plastic’s kind of tough to collect, because it’s usually in a bulky bottle form, but, still, if you can pack 20 pounds into your car, you can make several dollars if you find a scrapyard willing to buy it.

The most common high value plastic is 1 PETE, plastic water bottles, which have a bottle tax on them. The tax raises the price of the plastic to 2.5 cents per bottle, or around 1.25 per pound of plastic.

Next most common, but generally not bought at small recyclers, is 2 HDPE, which can be worth over 50 cents a pound.