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What Do the Numbers On Plastic Containers Mean?

What Do the Numbers On Plastic Containers Mean?

Look closely at a plastic container and you will notice a number from one to seven imprinted inside a small triangle. These numbers determine the type of resin used in the plastic. Some are safe, while others can transmit chemicals to food. Click through for a breakdown of the numbers and what they mean.

#1 polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE)

Product examples: Disposable soft drink and water bottles, cough-syrup bottles

#2 high density polyethylene (HDPE)/

Product examples: Milk jugs, toys, liquid detergent bottles, shampoo bottles

#3 polyvinyl chloride (V or PVC)

Product examples: Meat wrap, cooking oil bottles, plumbing pipes

#4 low density polyethylene (LDPE)

Product examples: Cling wrap, grocery bags, sandwich bags

#5 polypropylene (PP)

Product examples: Syrup bottles, yogurt cups/tubs, diapers

#6 polystyrene (PS)

Product examples: Disposable coffee cups, clam-shell take-out containers

#7 other (misc.; usually polycarbonate, or PC, but also polylactide, or PLA, plastics made from renewable resources)

Product examples: Baby bottles, some reusable water bottles, stain-resistant food-storage containers, medical storage containers

So which numbers are the safest? #2, #4 and #5. They do not transmit any known chemicals into food.  #2 is the easiest type of plastic to recycle. While #1 is ok for a single use, it is best to avoid using these types of bottles multiple times because the porus plastic absorbs bacteria.