Inside the plastic world
Beauty Tips

Plastic Codes

Hello everyone, today I decided to write a post that explains another thing that we should consider when buying a product! Plastic codes!

Which plastic is used for packaging?

We all know that plastic is everywhere even where it shouldn’t be, even in oceans or on top of the Pyrenees! Reducing the amount of plastic is becoming so important that each of us MUST do something to help the planet! On one hand, selecting solid shampoos or hand soap bars would completely eliminate the problem. On the other hand, not all products offer a plastic-free option. In case plastic is used as packaging, we should recycle it.

Plastic bottles, kids’ toys, furnitures, clothes are just a few examples of items that are made of plastic. Plastic is not unique. It doesn’t exist a molecule called “Plastic” and it cannot be treated in the same way. In order to know exactly which kind of plastic you are buying,  you should know plastics are grouped in 7 subclasses (here the EU directive). This post will help you distinguish them.


Kind of plastics

These plastics are thermoplastic. It means that they can be melted by heating and be solidified by cooling. This process makes them suitable for recycling. Each class is represented with a code from 1 to 7. It is printed on the backside of the packaging to help the consumers.

The classes are:

  1. Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)
  2. High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
  3. Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
  4. Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE)
  5. Polypropylene (PP)
  6. Polystyrene (PS)
  7. Other

Kind of plastics: meaning codes

  • PET is normally used for plastic bottles and it could be easily recycled. Sometimes the plastic bottle cups are made of another kind of plastic, the HDPE. The LDPE is produced to make plastic bags or food packaging, bottles, etc.
  • PVC is instead used for industrial applications for example to produce tubes. It could be recycled by specific companies. Here a map of the waste disposal companies in Germany.
  • PP could be also a good material for cosmetic containers.
  • PS is well known as polystyrol. It is used for food packaging, fast food containers, etc.
  • The 7th class is called “Other” and includes any plastic that is not specified in the previous classes or is made of a combination of some of them. In this class, we find nylon, polycarbonate, and other conventional plastics but also bioplastics that comprise plastic materials as biobased, biodegradable, or both (read here to know more). Here we could open another interesting topic about bioplastic but it is not the aim of this post. 🙂


The plastics that are often used for beauty products are 2-4-5 and 7. For my skin cream or shampoo, I’m trying to buy only products with a packaging made of class 2-4-5 or without packaging to avoid the problem from the source. This because I’m sure that I can recycle the packaging once the product is finished. In the case of plastic #7, I’m not so sure.

For example, PLA (polylactic acid) is a biodegradable plastic that belongs to class 7. It is not recycled as plastic but it’s considered as organic waste. So, it’s really important to know what you are through away and where. This will avoid compromising the entire recycling process.

If your beauty product has code 7 on its backside, try to get more info from the company before to throw it away.

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