What is the difference between plastics?

You may be wondering what is the difference between plastics? Do you find recycling confusing?  You’re not alone!

Recycling plastic is far from easy. Depending on the type of plastic and your local recycling facilities, only some types of plastic will be recycled.

This guide will help you understand better the different types of plastic and know which ones to recycle.


Not all plastics are recyclable. At least not yet…

In simple terms, the plastics that can be recycled belong mainly to the families of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), high density polyethylene (HDPE) and polypropylene (PP). In concrete terms, bottles (water, soft drinks, drinking yoghurt, edible oil, washing powder, etc.) and bottles (shower gel, shampoo, sauce, washing-up liquid, etc.) are recyclable waste.


1) Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)                                                                    

– CO2-tight

– Transparent or semi-opaque

– Lightweight

– Solid

– Long life

It comes in the form of:

– Food packaging

– Soft drink bottles

– Stuffing of plush and cushions

– Credit or loyalty cards

2) High density polyethylene (HDPE)

Which is:

– translucent

– soft and flexible

– resistant to cold and heat

– not resistant to oxidising agents

It comes in the form of:

– Household products

– Plastic crate

– Motor oil cans

– Milk bottles

– Shampoo bottles

– Medicine bottles

– Soft drink caps

3) Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)

Which is:

– Rigid or flexible

– Opaque or transparent

– Non-slip or smooth

– Water and fire resistant

– Easy to maintain

– Inert

It comes in the form of:

– Cheese and meat packaging

– Adhesive tape

– Credit or loyalty cards

– Kitchen utensil handles

– Baby bottle nipples

– Garden furniture

– Nappies

4) Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE)

Which is:

– Translucent

– Flexible

– Cold resistant

It comes in the form of:

– Food films

– Garbage bags and plastic bags

– Milk bottle caps

– Ice cube bags

5) Polypropylene (PP)

Which is:

– Resistant to high and low temperatures

– Hydrophobic

– Translucent to opaque

– Hard to semi-rigid

– Highly abrasion resistant

It comes in the form of:

– Butter pack

– Synthetic carpet

– Drinking straws

– Children’s tableware

– Microwaveable dish

6) Polystyrene (PS)

Which is:

– Hard

– Breakable

– Opaque or transparent

It comes in the form of:

– School square and protractor

– Yoghurt or cream pot

– Meat tray

7) Other (O)

Which takes the form of:

– Bottles for water coolers

– Reusable bottles

– Baby bottles

Source: PlasticForChange.


Some plastic waste remains difficult to process in practice. These include packaging that is too thin or too light, such as plastic film or plastic bags. Hard plastic toys and tableware are also not recyclable.

However, technological innovations to make more and better use of plastic packaging are progressing rapidly. So, there is nothing to say that plastic waste that is not recyclable today will not be recyclable tomorrow!


Unfortunately, now that we talked about the different types of plastics, we need to consider to that recycling rules are different in every country, region, city, council, state…This means that some plastics, although they are recyclable in theory, might be not actually recycled where you live!

That’s why it’s important to check your local recycling facility rules before putting something in the recycling bin.

If you want to read more about recycling, read the article by our friends at easyecotips “Recyclable does not mean it will be recycled“.


If you are thinking “this is probably recyclable”, it’s called wishcycling, and it does more harm than good. Wishcycling is putting something in a recycling bin in the hope that it will be recycled. Unfortunately, this is a serious issue! Many waste is commonly thought to be recyclable but is actually not, and will pollute the whole bin!

Read more about wishcycling with our article: https://moonqua.com/what-is-wishcycling/