Exactly What Every Plastic Recycling Symbol Really Means


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PET or PETE (polyethylene terephthalate) is the most common plastic for single-use bottled beverages because it’s inexpensive, lightweight and easy to recycle. The PET does not degrade easily during the recycling process and thus has a lower risk of trapping decomposition products that can then leach out. Its recycling rates remain relatively low (around 20%), even though the material is in high demand by manufacturers.

Found in: Soft drinks, water, ketchup and beer bottles; mouthwash bottles; peanut butter containers; salad dressing; and vegetable oil containers

How to recycle it: PET or PETE can be picked up through most curbside recycling programs, as long as it’s been emptied and rinsed of any food. When it comes to caps, our environmental pros say it’s probably better to dispose of them in the trash (since they’re usually made of a different type of plastic), unless your town explicitly says you can throw them in the recycle bin. There’s no need to remove bottle labels because the recycling process separates them.

Recycled into: Polar fleece, fiber, tote bags, furniture, carpet, paneling, straps, bottles and food containers (as long as the plastic being recycled meets purity standards and doesn’t have hazardous contaminants).



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