Resin Identification Codes or RIC were first introduced in 1988 as the “Voluntary Plastic Container Coding System” by The Society of the Plastics Industry (now called the Plastics Industry Association). The intent was to make it easier to identify what plastic objects were made of. Thus the codes made it easier to know whether to either recycle or dispose of them.
However, since 2008 the codes have been administered by ASTM International, an international organization of standards. After that the original coding system became ASTM D7611-Standard Practise for Coding Plastic Manufactured Articles for Resin Identification. In 2013 the graphic for the various codes was changed from a number surrounded by a triangle of three chasing arrows to a number surrounded by a triangle.
Meaning Of Resin Identification Codes
The resin numbers go from 1-7 with 1 being the easiest to recycle and 7 the least. So 1 and 2 can usually be recycled while 6 and 7 are usually disposed of. And for 3, 4 and 5… well that depends. Thus while an RIC code on a plastic object may mean it can be recycled, it does not necessarily means that nor does the absence of the code indicate it cannot be recycled.
Meaning of Resin Manufacturing Codes
The uses in this paragraph are original manufacture uses.
- Polyethylene terephthalate (PETE, PET): Soft drink bottles, tote bags, polyester fibers, thermoformed sheet, carpets, and furniture. Additionally, cold drink cups, peanut butter and salad dressing containers, and water bottles.
- High density polyethylene (HDPE, PE-HD): Juice and clear bottles, grocery bags, milk jugs, playground equipment, plastic lumber, trash can liners, butter and yogurt containers.
- Polyvinyl chloride (PVC): Pipes, siding, fencing, non-food bottles such as detergent containers. Also cooking oil bottles, toys, plastic floors, lawn chairs, clear wrap for food, bottles for window cleaner.
- Low density polyethylene (LDPE, PE-LD): Six pack rings, tubing, plastic bags, containers, and squeeze bottles as well as bread and frozen food bags.
- Polypropylene (PP): Auto parts and industrial fibers. Plates, bowls and cutlery, food containers. Also syrup and catsup bottles.
- Polystyrene (PS): Coffee cups and lids, as well as clamshell containers, egg cartons as well as packaging peanuts and other packaging materials.
- Other or O: Includes acrylic, nylon, polycarbonate, polylactic acid (PLA), and multiple combinations of different plastics. Bottles, safety glasses, food packaging, plastic lumber, headlight lenses.
According to the United Nations Environment Program less than 10% of the plastic waste generated worldwide has ever been recycled.
- PET, PETE: These are recyclable and should be washed and dried before being put in your recycling bin. This plastic is turned into flakes and used to spin carpet fiber, fiberfill and tote bags.
- HDPE is very resistant to deterioration. These items should also be rinsed and dried before disposal. It is recycled into among other things plastic fencing, picnic tables and lawn chairs.
- PVC can break down into dangerous chemicals like vinyl chloride. It is reprocessed into items like traffic cones, garden hoses and floor mats.
- LDPE is considered a safe plastic for human food use and does not leach any chemicals. It is reprocessed into trash can liners, composite lumber and piping.
- PP is safe to be reused. All items should be rinsed and dried before putting them in your recycling bin. PP can be re-manufactured into brooms, bike racks, ice scrapers and bins.
- PS is lightweight and does not break down easily. Because of its light weight it takes a very large amount to recycle the plastic. Thus it is not economical for reprocessors to accept.
- As described above this is a group of plastics that are less used and therefore are not generally recycled.