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Know Your Plastic: Plastic Numbers Explained

plastic numbers


Plastic is a part of our daily lives. From the clothes we wear to the utensils we eat with, plastic has become a staple in the products we buy daily. But what plastics are safe to use and what plastics should we avoid? Follow this guide for an overview of the different types of plastics, the plastic numbers they are classified under, and where you can most commonly find them in everyday products.


To start why does plastic follow a coding system? The Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) established a classification system to help consumers and recyclers properly recycle and dispose of each different type of plastic based on its chemical makeup. Below we touch upon the most commonly used plastic numbers in the market.

Plastic numbers explained:


#1 – PET or PETE—polyethylene terephthalate is used in many water and juice bottles. It’s commonly recycled, and accepted by most curbside programs and recycling centers.


#2 – HDPE—high-density polyethylene is common in milk jugs, detergent and shampoo bottles. It’s usually accepted by most curbside programs and recycling centers.


#3 – PVC —vinyl or polyvinyl chloride is a known human carcinogen, often contains phthalates and is not recyclable. Phthalates add flexibility and durability to PVC and vinyl. They’re present in products like toys, food packaging, plastic wrap, shower curtains, lotions, perfume, air fresheners and candles. Phthalates are listed as reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen by the National Toxicology Program, and are considered a probable human carcinogen and endocrine disruptor by the EPA. Even though phthalates have been banned from some baby toys and baby gear, they are still allowed in lunch bags and food containers, so always choose phthalate-free.


#4 – LDPE—low-density polyethylene is common in plastic bags, cling wraps, baby bottles and reusable drink and food containers. It’s recyclable at most recycling centers and some curbside programs.


#5 – PP—polypropylene can be found in baby bottles, yogurt containers, and many reusable food and drink containers. It’s recyclable in some curbside programs and most recycling centers.


#6 – PS—polystyrene is used in takeout food containers, Styrofoam containers and cups, and plastic cutlery. It has been found to leach styrene, a neurotoxin and possible human carcinogen, and has been banned in many U.S. cities. It is not easily recyclable.


#7—This catchall category includes polycarbonate which has been found to leach bisphenol A (BPA), a hormone disruptor that mimics estrogen. Bioplastics (plant-based) are also in this category but cannot be recycled and are usually sent to landfill unless directed to a bioplastic-specific composting facility.


We use PET #1, LDPE #4 and PP #5 plastics in our products. We advocate for using plastic safely (not microwaving or heating), and getting to know your plastic numbers. There are possible health risks with some types of plastics, so we only use plastics that are safe for food storage. All of our products are tested free of BPA and phthalates. Still have questions? Take a look at our product information page for more facts on our entire product line.


Want to learn more? Our strategic partner Healthy Child, Healthy World has created an informative resource called Know Your Plastics that can provide you with more information on the topic as well as more information on how to reduce your use of plastics. As you learn more about what types of plastics you are bringing into your home, the more you can cut down on your plastic consumption and make safe choices for your family and the planet.