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An insider’s guide to sorting your plastics

Published: 10 May 2017

The numbers in the triangle on the bottom of plastic products often cause confusion.

Although the triangle is widely recognised as the international symbol for recycling, not all products with it are recyclable in New Zealand.

What does it mean?

The numbers in the triangles are the product's Resin Identification Code. They identify the plastic resin the product is made of, and allow manufacturers and sorters to categorise the different plastics, which have different uses – some are suitable for food products, others for containing strong chemicals, etc.

Common plastic items that can be recycled

  • water bottles, salad dressings, oil, cosmetics, household cleaners (#1 PET)
  • laundry detergent, milk bottles (#2 HDPE)
  • juice and milk cartons (#7 LDPE)
  • yoghurt and margarine tubs (#5 PP).

Common plastic items that can’t be recycled

These items go to landfill. Where possible reduce your use of them and/or look for ways to reuse them:

  • toys 
  • shower curtains, pool toys, inflatable toys (#3 PVC)
  • plastic shopping bags, packaging material (#4 LDPE)
  • polystyrene (foam) cups and packaging from takeaways (#6)
  • electrical wiring, CD and DVD cases.

Top tips for cutting down on plastic

  • Say no to straws.
  • Invest in a razor that takes replaceable blades (please dispose of these safely).
  • Choose reusable shopping bags (preferably made from recycled material!) rather than single use plastic bags.
  • Bring your own reusable coffee cup to cafes.
  • Stop with the bottled water!
  • Take stock of your food storage methods, and cut down on plastic wrapping. 

Find out more about recycling at Make the Most of Waste

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