Is Number 1 Plastic Recyclable?

With plastic waste becoming an increasingly pressing environmental issue, many consumers want to know if they can recycle plastic items marked with the number 1 recycling symbol. The quick answer is yes, #1 plastic is widely recycled, but the full story is more complicated.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about recycling number 1 plastic. You’ll learn what #1 plastic is, why it’s recyclable, how the recycling process works, what happens to it after, and tips for proper disposal.

What is Number 1 Plastic?

Number 1 plastic, also known as PET or polyethylene terephthalate, is one of the most commonly used types of plastic. It is a lightweight and durable material that is often used for packaging beverages, such as water bottles and soda bottles. PET is also used in other products, such as food containers, polyester clothing, and even medical equipment.

The 7 plastic recycling symbols

When it comes to recycling plastics, it’s important to understand the different symbols that indicate the type of plastic used. The number 1 plastic is identified by the recycling symbol with the number 1 inside. This symbol is usually found on the bottom of plastic containers and is accompanied by the letters “PET” or the word “PETE”.

It’s worth noting that not all number 1 plastics are recyclable in all areas. Recycling capabilities can vary depending on local recycling facilities and regulations. It’s always a good idea to check with your local recycling center to see what types of plastics they accept.

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)

Polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, is a type of plastic that is highly recyclable. It can be melted down and reprocessed into new products, reducing the need for virgin plastic production. Recycling PET not only helps conserve valuable resources but also reduces the amount of plastic waste that ends up in landfills or our oceans.

One of the most common uses for recycled PET is in the production of polyester fibers. These fibers are used to make a wide range of products, including clothing, carpets, and even automotive parts. By recycling PET, we can give new life to old plastics and contribute to a more sustainable future.

If you’re unsure about whether a specific item made from number 1 plastic is recyclable, it’s always best to check with your local recycling center. They can provide you with the most up-to-date information on recycling guidelines and help you make environmentally responsible choices.

Is Number 1 Plastic Recyclable?

Plastic recycling has become increasingly important in today’s society as we strive to reduce waste and protect the environment. When it comes to recycling plastic, one common question that arises is whether number 1 plastic, also known as PET or PETE, is recyclable. Let’s delve into this topic and explore the various aspects of recycling number 1 plastic.

Curbside recycling programs

Many municipalities offer curbside recycling programs that accept number 1 plastic. These programs make it convenient for residents to recycle their plastic waste by providing collection bins or bags that are picked up regularly. When placing number 1 plastic in these bins, it is important to make sure it is clean and free from any contaminants, such as food residue or other non-recyclable materials. By participating in curbside recycling, you can contribute to the recycling efforts in your community and help reduce the amount of plastic waste that ends up in landfills.

Drop-off locations

In addition to curbside recycling programs, there are often drop-off locations where you can take your number 1 plastic for recycling. These drop-off locations are typically found at recycling centers, grocery stores, or other designated areas. It’s important to check with your local recycling facility or municipality to find out where these drop-off locations are located and what specific types of plastics they accept. By utilizing these drop-off locations, you can ensure that your number 1 plastic is properly recycled and given a new life.

Issues with recycling #1 plastic

While number 1 plastic is recyclable, there are some challenges associated with its recycling process. One issue is the limited market demand for recycled number 1 plastic. This means that even if you diligently recycle your number 1 plastic, there may not be a strong demand for it to be turned into new products. As a result, some of the recycled number 1 plastic may still end up in landfills or incinerators.

Another challenge is the contamination of number 1 plastic with other types of plastics or non-recyclable materials. This can make it difficult for recycling facilities to effectively process the plastic and reduce its quality for recycling. It is important to follow proper recycling guidelines and ensure that your number 1 plastic is clean and free from any contaminants before placing it in the recycling bin.

Did you know? According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in 2018, only 9.1% of plastic waste in the United States was recycled. This highlights the need for increased awareness and efforts to improve plastic recycling rates.

The Recycling Process for #1 Plastic

When it comes to recycling, #1 plastic is indeed recyclable. The recycling process for #1 plastic involves several stages, including collection, sorting and processing, and remanufacturing. Let’s take a closer look at each step.


The first step in the recycling process is the collection of #1 plastic. This involves individuals and communities gathering their plastic waste and placing it in designated recycling bins. It’s important to note that not all plastic products are made from #1 plastic, so it’s crucial to check the recycling symbol on the item before disposing of it in the appropriate bin.

Once collected, the #1 plastic is transported to recycling facilities, where it undergoes further processing.

Sorting and processing

At the recycling facility, the #1 plastic is sorted based on its type and color. This is done using automated machines and manual labor. The sorted plastic is then cleaned to remove any contaminants, such as labels or dirt.

After cleaning, the plastic is shredded into small pieces and melted down. This melted plastic can then be used to create new products or packaging.


Once the plastic has been melted down, it is ready for remanufacturing. This involves shaping the melted plastic into pellets or flakes, which can be used as raw material for manufacturing new plastic products.

These pellets or flakes are then used to create a variety of items, such as bottles, containers, and even clothing. The remanufacturing process helps reduce the demand for virgin plastic and minimizes the environmental impact of plastic waste.

It’s worth mentioning that recycling #1 plastic not only helps conserve valuable resources but also reduces the amount of plastic waste that ends up in landfills or oceans, where it can take hundreds of years to decompose.

If you’re interested in learning more about the recycling process for #1 plastic, you can visit Recycle by City or Plastics Make it Possible for additional information.

What Happens After It’s Recycled?

After recycling, number 1 plastic can go through a process known as “closed-loop recycling.” This means that the plastic is recycled into the same type of product it once was. For example, a number 1 plastic water bottle can be recycled and turned into another number 1 plastic water bottle. This closed-loop process is highly beneficial as it reduces the need for new plastic production and helps to conserve resources.

Second life products

In addition to being turned into the same type of product, recycled number 1 plastic can also be transformed into various second life products. These products are typically not the same as the original plastic item, but they still serve a useful purpose. For instance, recycled number 1 plastic can be used to create polyester fibers, which are then used to make clothing, carpets, and even sleeping bags. This gives the plastic a new lease on life and prevents it from ending up in landfills or polluting our oceans.


While recycling number 1 plastic is an important step towards sustainability, it is necessary to acknowledge the concept of downcycling. Downcycling refers to the process where recycled plastic is transformed into a lower-grade product. For example, plastic bottles may be downcycled into plastic lumber or park benches. While this is still a valuable reuse of the material, it does mean that the plastic cannot be recycled indefinitely.

It is worth noting that the recycling process for number 1 plastic can vary depending on the recycling facility and the specific type of plastic being recycled. Some plastics may need to go through additional sorting or cleaning processes before they can be effectively recycled. Therefore, it is crucial to follow local recycling guidelines and ensure that the plastic is properly prepared for recycling.

For more information on recycling number 1 plastic and other types of plastic recycling, you can visit the Environmental Protection Agency website.

Tips for Proper Disposal

Clean and dry containers

When disposing of number 1 plastic, it’s important to clean and dry the containers before placing them in the recycling bin. This helps prevent contamination and ensures that the recycling process is more efficient. Contaminated plastics can be rejected by recycling facilities, leading to them being sent to landfills instead. So, take a few extra moments to rinse out your number 1 plastic containers and allow them to dry before recycling.

Avoid wishcycling

One common mistake people make when it comes to recycling number 1 plastic is wishcycling. Wishcycling is when you put items in the recycling bin that you hope will be recycled, even if they are not recyclable in your area. This can actually do more harm than good, as it can contaminate the recycling stream and lead to more waste being sent to landfills. To avoid wishcycling, it’s important to know what is and isn’t recyclable in your specific area. Check with your local recycling program or waste management facility to get accurate information about what can be recycled.

Cut out labels

Before recycling your number 1 plastic containers, take a moment to cut out any labels or stickers that may be attached to them. While most labels are made of paper or plastic and can be recycled, they can still cause issues during the recycling process. By removing labels, you help ensure that the plastic can be properly sorted and recycled. Plus, it’s a small step that can make a big difference in the overall recycling process.

Remember, proper disposal of number 1 plastic is crucial for effective recycling. By following these tips, you can contribute to a cleaner environment and help reduce waste.


While number 1 plastic is widely accepted by recycling programs, proper sorting and preparation is key to ensuring it gets turned into new materials or products. With some effort on the consumer side to clean and separate plastics, #1 containers and bottles can be efficiently recycled and kept out of landfills.

The recycling process involves multiple steps to collect, sort, clean, shred, and remold plastic resin into usable materials. Understanding what #1 plastic is, how to recycle it, and where it ends up can help consumers make environmentally-friendly choices and reduce plastic waste.

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