Plastic Recycling

Singapore incinerates wastes because we lack space for landfills. We are increasing our re-cycling efforts to spur the momentum for the circular economy.

Most plastic products have symbols printed or embossed on them (eg at the bottom of bottles & containers). These symbols show us that there are 7 different categories of plastics. Each category has to be processed differently when recycled & they yield different by-products.

It would be helpful to familiarise ourselves with these so that we can carry out plastic recycling in a disciplined manner. 

  PETE (or PET) stands for Polyethylene Terephthalate. It is a clear & lightweight plastic that is usually used to make single-use food containers such as our take-away boxes & water bottles. When recycled, the new plastic can be used to make new containers and fibre for our carpets & jackets.
  HDPE stands for High-Density Polyethylene. It is the type of plastic used to make containers for shampoo, detergent & cleaning fluids. When recycled, the new plastic can be used for making toys & stationery.
V stands for Vinyl or PVC. The chemical name is Polyvinyl Chloride. This is the type of plastic used to make pipes, flooring, window frames, building products and waterproof clothing. PVC is very difficult to recycle because it contains hazardous chemicals. Thankfully, they are very durable and products made from Vinyl or PVC can be used for a very very long time. 
  LDPE stands for Low-Density Polyethylene. This is commonly used to make shopping bags, clothing, soft bottles & frozen foods packaging. When recycled, the new plastic can be used to make floor tiles, trash bags, trash bins & even e-commerce envelopes.
PP stands for Polypropylene. It is used to make straws, containers for foods like sauces such as chilli, ketchups, etc. These containers are usually "squeezable". Even liquid medicine such as cough syrups are usually stored in bottles made from PP. When recycled, the new plastic can be used to make trash bins, trays, fibre for brooms and brushes, etc.
PS stands for Polystyrene. Polystyrene is commonly known as styrofoam. We are probably familiar with its use for disposable food packaging, eg. cups, plates, insulated storage boxes. Apparently, styrofoam is very difficult to recycle and it takes a million years to decompose. Hence, the recommendation is to avoid products made from styrofoam so that the lack of demand will stop the use of it. Manufacturers like styrofoam because it is cheap and easy to make. But it is a major hazard for the environment. 
"Other" is a miscellaneous category which includes materials like nylon, fibreglass, acrylic, etc. Products such as DVDs, baby bottles & sunglasses are usually made from plastics in this category. 


We hope this information will help you better understand the different plastic products that you are using and how to recycle them when required.