What plastics are recycled? And what happens to recycled plastics like polypropylene?

Before and after image of recycled plastics

Fortunately, recycling plastics typically doesn’t require in-depth knowledge of the types of plastics we’re using and recycling. Just follow the directions from your community or recycling company, and recycle everything you can to leave a lighter footprint on the environment.

But if you’re curious what plastics are recycled—and what happens to recycled plastics—here’s a handy little chart that spells it out for the most commonly recycled plastics.

Note: resin means a type of plastic. The resin code is typically found on plastic packaging.

Resin codeName/descriptionA few common uses

Examples of uses for

recycled resin

1 PETPolyethylene terephthalate is clear, tough, and a good barrier to moisture. When woven into fabric, it’s known as polyester.Polyethylene terephthalate is commonly used for: Beverage bottles; condiment bottles and jars; frozen food trays; clamshell containers; mouthwash and other toiletry bottles; clothing; carpetingRecycled polyethylene terephthalate is can be turned into: Clothing such as fleece jackets, T-shirts and leggings; carpeting; vehicle upholstery; bottles
2 HDPEHigh-density polyethylene is a rigid plastic that resists corrosion when exposed to a variety of substances.High-density polyethylene is commonly used for: Milk and juice jugs; laundry detergent and bleach bottles; shampoo and other toiletry bottles; vitamin bottlesRecycled high-density polyethylene can be turned into: Plastic bottles and jugs; plastic lumber for decks, outdoor furniture, and playground equipment
3 PVCPolyvinyl chloride offers clear, high-impact strength and resistance to corrosion.Polyvinyl chloride is commonly used for: Rigid packaging such as clamshells; rigid film, pipes, siding, flooring, and window frames; insulation for electrical wireRecycled polyvinyl chloride can be turned into: Pipes; floor tiles and mats; mud flaps for trucks; garden hoses; traffic cones; carpet backing; hotel key cards; credit cards
4 LDPELow-density polyethylene is a transparent, flexible plastic used extensively in wraps, bags and other films.Low-density polyethylene is commonly used for: Bags for groceries, dry cleaning, bread and trash; wraps to package products such as cases of water bottles and diapers; cling wrap for food protection; squeezable condiment bottles; mail-order garment packagingRecycled low-density polyethylene can be turned into: Plastic composite lumber for decks; floor tiles; compost bins and trash cans
5 PPPolypropylene is a durable plastic that can stand up to a range of temperatures and substances.Polypropylene is commonly used for: Yogurt and margarine containers and lids; deli containers; beverage bottle caps; clamshells; medicine jars; condiment bottles; convenience store drink cups; reusable food storage containersRecycled polypropylene can be turned into: Mixing bowls, spatulas and cutting boards; shovels and watering cans; automotive battery cases, oil funnels, and ice scrapers; storage bins; shipping pallets
6 PSPolystyrene is a versatile plastic that can be made rigid and clear or as an opaque foam.Polystyrene is commonly used for: Foodservice clamshell containers, plates, cups, lids and cutlery; meat and poultry trays; protective packaging, building insulationRecycled polystyrene can be turned into: Insulation; egg cartons; picture frames, moldings, and other home décor products; foam protective packaging
7 OtherThis resin either is none of the six above or is made with more than one resin.Depends on resinDepends on resin

Want to learn how to recycle more plastics? Click here for Plastics Recycling 101.