Plastic Numbers, What do they even mean?

You may have noticed the different numbers in a triangle at the bottom of you to-go container, water bottle, or laundry detergent bottle (consider switching to a plastic-free DIY laundry detergent!). They are called SPI Codes (Society of Plastic Numbers) and are different plastic classifications. They range from 1-7 within a small triangle. They provide a great deal of information about the type of plastic, the level of toxicity, how biodegradable they are, and how easily the plastic can be recycled. It can get a little technical, chemistry heavy, and frankly… boring.

As boring as it may seem, those numbers on the bottom of the plastic are actually super important when it comes to the recycling process!

I wanted to make it short and sweet for y’all so you would be better educated about what the numbers mean, which plastics to avoid entirely (I preach trying to avoid all plastics) and the plastic recycling process.

I always refer to this AMAZING graph I found a while back from Ocean Conservancy ( 

I find it very useful and clear. Plastic numbers 1 , 2 , & 5 are the easiest plastics to recycle (always good to double check with your local recycling centers because not all are the same in). Most commonly for 1, 2, & 5 are water bottles, milk containers shampoo and conditioner bottles, detergent containers and yogurt containers. Screen shot the graph and use it as a point of reference in your day-to-day life! 

For these to be recycled, THEY MUST BE WASHED OUT COMPLETELY! And by completely…. I mean…. completely washed out ( I realize this can be annoying as you’re in a rush in the morning and don’t always have time to perfectly wash out the ketchup container but you must!). You must also remove any caps (like on a milk container) as the caps are a different number plastic and must be recycled differently. 

The most difficult to recycle, and most often just not recycled at all because of this, are plastic numbers 3, 6, & 7. For example plastic cutlery, thin plastic that is around cheese and deli meat packaging, as well as large water containers. These should all at costs be avoided! These are plastics that are not able to be recycled or reused into anything and are sent to the landfills. 

Although better to avoid plastics all together, some plastics are “safer” and “better” than others because of the fact that they can be recycled and made into new products. When making a choice at the store or a cafe, try to choose plastics that have the SPI code of 1, 2, & 5. Ensure that once you are finished, you clean it completely and recycle it. 

Another great option is to try and move more towards a plastic-free lifestyle, as mentioned in our blog Consciously Living Plastic-Free. I recommend starting small and being consistent, like swapping out plastic water bottles for a reusable water bottle. Or bringing your own bamboo cutlery set instead of grabbing single-use plastic cutlery. 

Whatever you choose, just be conscious of the different products you are using and what they are made of. They can not only impact the environment, but also your body!

Leave a reply

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: