Types of plastic and how to recycle them

What plastic can be recycled at home and at a recycling centre.

What are the different types of plastics?

The plastics industry uses seven different Resin Identification Codes to identify the common types of plastic. The plastics that can be recycled are generally from type 1 (PET), type 2 (HDPE), type 4 (LDPE) or type 5 (PP).

Plastics may be made using carbon produced from oil, recycled from existing plastic products or bio-based plastics which are produced from natural sources such as sugar cane, corn, potatoes, grains or vegetable oils. They usually have a lower carbon footprint in their production than traditional plastic from fossil fuels.

Not all products from an individual resin type are accepted. For example rigid type 4 (LDPE) can be easily collected, sorted and recycled from mixed kerbside collections however, films made from the same type of plastic are difficult to sort and recycle and are often contaminated by the item they are packaging.

Some items made from type 6 (PS) are also accepted in recycling collections e.g. some yoghurt pots but it is not currently possible to recycle items made from expanded polystyrene such as polystyrene takeaway boxes.

How do I know if the plastic item I have is accepted for recycling?

On our website and on the Waste Wizard search tool we provide the information by item rather than using Resin Identification Codes because not all plastics have this code and not all items made from each type of plastic can be sorted and recycled. We also find that residents prefer to search for an item this way.

District council recycling collections also vary a little across the county e.g. some district councils accept plastic carrier bags in the recycling bin, but others do not. Use the Waste Wizard search tool to find recycling information for plastics in your area.

Plastic that can be recycled in your recycling collection and at a recycling centre

  • All bottles and tops – including drinks bottles, shampoo bottles and bleach bottles
  • Food and toiletry pots – including yogurt pots, hummus pots and moisturiser pots
  • Tubs and trays – including butter tubs, ready meal trays and medicine tubs

Plastic that can be recycled just at a recycling centre

  • Large plastic garden toys (slides etc)
  • Buckets, bowls and baskets 
  • Garden furniture 
  • Wheelie bins, recycling boxes, food caddies 
  • Storage boxes and crates
  • Water butts 

Plastic that can't be recycled in your recycling collection or at a recycling centre

  • Crisp packets *
  • Chocolate wrappers *
  • Salad bags
  • Film lids
  • CD and DVD cases
  • Fruit netting
  • Polystyrene
  • Disposable razors
  • Coffee machine pods *
  • Pet food pouches *
  • Hard plastic pots such as flower pots
  • Baby/face wipes and their packaging

* certain types of these can be recycled at public donation points provided by the manufacturer – please visit Terracycle for details

Although plastic films aren’t accepted in all areas some plastic films can be accepted along with carrier bags at large supermarkets. Check the label on the packaging for specific information.

Black plastic can’t be recycled in your blue bin if you live in the Cherwell District Council area.

What are the different recycling labels on packaging and what do they mean?

Packaging labels and recycling symbols are on lots of everyday items. Providing us with information on what the item is made from to instructing us to rinse and recycle or leave the cap on the item before placing in the recycling

Where can I find out more about the types of plastic?

Information on the types of plastic and what they are used for can be found on WRAP’s Clear on Plastic website.

What about biodegradable or compostable plastic?

Biodegradable plastic is designed to break down more quickly than traditional plastics but still causes harm to the environment if littered and it can't currently be collected for recycling so please put them into your rubbish bin.

Compostable plastics are designed to fully decompose in composting conditions. Compostable liners can be used to line your food caddy, but currently, we do not have any facilities able to process compostable plastics such as coffee cups or trays. Products that are labelled as “home compostable” can be placed in your home compost bin. Home compostable or industrially compostable packaging must be placed in your rubbish bin.

Reducing your plastic use

  • Say no to single-use straws (as they can come in a plastic sleeve) and instead carry your own bamboo or metal ones
  • Remember to take your shopping bags with you
  • Bring a reusable coffee cup if you have one on the go
  • Find your nearest refill station to fill up your water bottle
  • Take your lunch to work in reusable containers
  • Use cloth nappies instead of disposables on your baby
  • Try shampoo bars or soap instead of bottled cosmetics

Part of Oxfordshire Recycles

This information is from Oxfordshire Recycles, a partnership of Oxfordshire’s county and district councils working together to reduce waste.