plastic types a neat stupid simple guide
plastic types a neat stupid simple guide

Plastic Types – A Neat Stupid-Simple Guide


Plastic is one of the most useful technologies of the twentieth century, with a reach much beyond what most people can conceive. Its pervasiveness stems from its resilience to environmental deterioration, as well as the fact that it is safe for humans, inexpensive, and widely available. Its ability to adapt varied qualities to fit different uses has altered numerous sectors.

While the term “plastic” is often used to imply that there is just one type of plastic, the truth is that there are various sorts, each with its own set of properties and qualities that make them better suited for diverse purposes. The same may be said for their recyclability; some are simple to recycle, while others require special procedures.

Diverse types of plastics are used for different applications: a plastic for children’s toys differs from one used in a hip replacement, and a shopping bag plastic differs from one used in your home’s plumbing. With so many different types of plastic, recycling them properly becomes a challenge.

Resin Identification Code (RIC)

The Society of Plastic Industry created the Resin Identification Code (RIC) system in 1988, which separates plastic resins into seven classes. It was designed in order to “establish a consistent national system to promote recycling of post-consumer plastics,” and it is now widely regarded as the gold standard in plastic classification.

Symbol Resin Code 1 PETE.svg
Bhutajata, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
1 plastic bottles 3600x scaled
Straight and crushed bottles Mobile 1
PET Bottles – Source: Mould and Die World Magazine

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE or PET)

The most prevalent plastic is polythene terephthalate (PETE or PET). Polyester is mostly used for fibres, but it is also used in bottling and packaging; PET for bottled water is recyclable. It distinguishes itself from other polymers by having high moisture resistance and being shatterproof.

Because it can prevent oxygen from getting in and damaging food inside, it’s used in a variety of situations. PET plastics are the most recycled of all plastics. There are several issues, including as its porous nature, which necessitates the use of harsh cleaning chemicals, the possibility of carcinogens leaching from it, and the possibility of antimony leaching from PETE polymers when heated. Usually transparent they are not intended for many uses.

  • Water and beverage bottles
  • Food jars and containers
  • Salad and oil bottles
  • Clothers fibre
  • Mouthwash bottles

Recycled PETE plastics can be used to make new bottles and polyester fibre.

Symbol Resin Code 2 HDPE.svg 1
Bhutajata, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
497px Symbol Resin Code 4 LDPE.svg
Bhutajata, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
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shutterstock 1135482695 min
Image credit: StanislauV/

Polyethylene (PE)

Polyethylene is the most widely used plastic on the planet, owing to its ability to be manufactured in a variety of densities, each with its own set of properties.

Low density polythene (LDPE) and high density polythene (HDPE) are the two most popular types of polythene.
LDPE is thinner, more flexible, and easier to work with than its equivalent. Plastic bags, six-pack rings, containers, dispensing bottles, plastic wraps, shopping bags, grocery bags, clear food containers, disposable packaging, medicine and ketchup bottles, tupperware boxes, and cereal box liners can be made of LDPE.

It may be used to make garments, playground equipment, and ice scrapers when recycled.

HDPE is harder, more impact resistant, and has a high temperature threshold. Used for hard plastic packaging (e.g. laundry detergent containers) and construction applications, shampoo bottles, shopping bags, motorcycle oil bottles, grocery bags, milk jugs, recycling bins, agricultural tubing, playground equipment, lids, shampoo bottles and cereal box liners are all made of high-density polythene (HDPE).

When recycled it may be used to make plastic lumber, bed liners, and picnic tables when recycled.

Medium Density Polyethylene (MDPE) is utilised in a variety of applications, including gas pipelines, shrink film, carrier bags, and screw closures.

Military body armour, hydraulic seals and bearings, biomaterial for hip, knee, and spine implants, and artificial ice skating rinks all use Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE).

488px Resin identification code 3 V.svg
The original uploader was TotoBaggins at English Wikipedia., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
images 2
PVC – Source: Green & Growing
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Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

With the addition of phthalates, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) can be either solid or flexible. Stiff PVC is used for building and construction materials, while flexible PVC is used for plumbing, wiring, electrical wire insulation, and flooring. Because of its lightness and durability, it may be used for different situations.

Check to check if the PVC product you’re purchasing is BPA-free, as BPA is a toxin that might affect one’s fertility, among other things. While it is a common plastic, it is not totally recyclable, and some of the chemicals used in its manufacture can disrupt the hormone system, children’s development, immune, and endocrine systems, as well as cause cancer.

Symbol Resin Code 5 PP.svg
Bhutajata, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
plastic 5 no yogurt cups 300x300 1
From Napa Recycling
5 plastic PP large

Polypropylene (PP)

Polypropylene (PP) is a cost-effective thermoplastic with good stress resistance, heat and acid resistance. Its semi-transparent, low-friction, electrically resistant surface makes it extremely desirable due to the wide range of production procedures that may be used to it. Polypropylene can be used to make living hinges for various containers, thermal vests, yoghurt containers, disposable diapers, consumer goods packaging, and automotive plastic parts.

6PS 1
From Sustainability Guide
600x600 polystyrene rigid 300x300 1
From Stockton Recycles
600x600 polystyrene foam 300x300 1
From Recycling Lincoln

Polystyrene (PS)

Polystyrene (PS) or Styrofoam (as it is more often known) is a lightweight, cost-effective substance that can be solid or foamed and is easy to manufacture. It is fragile and can harm flora and fauna once released into the environment because of these properties; animals may mistake it for food, and the chemical styrene can leach. Disposable cutlery, CD and DVD cases, takeaway food containers and cutlery, egg cartons, soft drink lids, and medical equipment like test tubes and petri dishes are all examples of Polystyrene products.

From Sustainability Guide
cornfield Photo cred Adobe Stock
From World Grain
pla printed parts 2 1
From Treatstock

Polyactic Acid (PLA)

Polylactic Acid (PLA) is made from biomass rather than petroleum, which makes it more biodegradable. Being made of corn large corn crops are needed – many people believe that the corn should be donated to others who are in need. At this point in time PLA plastics will not decompose in your backyard and must be taken to a commercial composting facility to be properly disposed of, as mixing it up with other recyclable plastics will contanimate the recycling process.

Polycarbonate Sheets Vs Plastic
From Tuf Lite
bpa free plastic bottles
Creative Mechanisms
Polycarbonate Roofing 500x450 1
From Plastic Warehouse

Polycarbonate (PC)

Polycarbonate (PC) is a transparent plastic that can withstand more force than other plastics. It is 250 times stronger than glass, can be coloured, is UV-tolerant, and even bullet-resistant, and requires no pre-forming or manufacturing. Greenhouses, DVDs, sunglasses, police riot gear, and other products use it.

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From Plastic Collectors
abs filament 3
From Treat Stock
clothespins ABS
From 3dp Master

ABS (Acrylontrile-Butadiene-Styrene)

ABS is a lightweight plastic that is easy to work with. Tough, flexible, glossy, and impact-resistant plastic that is resistant to corrosive substances and physical impacts. It’s suitable for injection moulding and 3D printing because of its low melting temperature. ABS plastic comes in two varieties: one for extrusion moulding and the other for injection moulding. Because it is inherently white, it provides a blank canvas for brilliant colour dyes, making it appealing to toy makers. ABS is also used in the automotive and refrigeration industries, as well as in boxes, gauges, protective equipment, luggage, and children’s toys.

References n.d. Types of Plastic | Learn What is Plastic Made Of & Different Types of Plastic – A&C Plastics. [online] Available at: <>.

Bahraini, A., 2018. 7 Types of Plastic that You Need to Know – Waste4Change. [online] Waste4Change. Available at: <>. 2016. The Eleven Most Important Types of Plastic. [online] Available at: <>.

Tayao, I., 2020. Types Of Plastic ♺ – How Many Are There? And, Are They Recyclable?. [online] Available at: <>.

YesStraws. 2020. Types of Plastic – A Complete Plastic Numbers Guide. [online] Available at: <>.


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