What is the difference between PET and HDPE Plastic?

What is the difference between PET and HDPE Plastic?

We are often asked what the difference is between our two biggest selling types of plastic, PET and HDPE plastic; and whether these plastics are easy to recycle.

PET plastic is generally the clear sort and is glass-like in appearance (it’s also available in glossy white from us).

HDPE plastic is more flexible and is opaque in appearance (we also stock white and black HDPE bottles).

Eco-friendly recycled bottle

Eco-friendly recycled bottle

We also stock the recycled Eco friendly PET plastic.

Confusing recycle codes?

PET has a recycle rating of 1 which means it can be recycled, although not always reused. The numbering system for plastic recycling (the numbers in triangles symbols) has been around for 30 years but many people are now calling for a much clearer method of identifying which are recyclable and whether they can be recycled at a local council depot or require a more specialised recycling facility.

When many plastics recycling programs were first being implemented in communities only plastics with Codes 1 and 2  (PET and HDPE) were accepted to be recycled. The list of acceptable plastic items has grown since then and in some areas councils successfully recycle most plastic products regardless of their code. This has led some councils to instruct residents to refer to the form of packaging i.e. bottles, tubs, lids etc. when determining what to include in their recycling bin, rather than instructing them to rely on the numerical codes.

In the USA, to further alleviate consumer confusion, the American Chemistry Council launched the Recycling Terms & Tools program to promote standardised language that can be used to educate consumers about how to recycle plastic products.

Possible new codes for PET and HDPE plastic ?

Modifications to the codes are currently being discussed and developed in the USA. The Sustainable Packaging Coalition has also created a How2Recycle label in an effort to replace the numerical system that aligns more closely with how the public currently uses it. Rather than indicating what type of plastic resin a product is made out of, the four How2Recycle labels indicate whether a plastic product is

  • Widely Recycled (meaning greater than 60 percent of the U.S. can recycle the item through a curbside recycling program or municipal drop-off location).
  • Limited (meaning only 20–60 percent of the U.S. can recycle the item through a curbside recycling program or municipal drop-off location).
  • Not Yet Recycled (meaning less than 20 percent of the U.S. can recycle the item through a curbside recycling program or municipal drop-off location).
  • Store Drop-Off (meaning the item can be recycled if brought to participating store drop-off locations, typically at grocery stores).

The How2Recycle labels also encourage consumers to check with local facilities to see what plastics each municipal recycling facility can accept.

It would be great see this much simpler method of recycling codes becoming a world-wide system to make it much easier for us all to combat this global problem.

Watch this space! and as always please encourage your end-user to recycle responsibly.