Plastic is a material that is easy to find every day, whether in supermarkets or in our homes, no matter how much we try to eliminate it from our lives.

Here you can find out what types of plastic exist and what their negative environmental impact is.

7 types of plastic

We often hear that plastic is the problem, but in reality the problem is how we actually use it: plastic is a good material if we use it over and over again.

Plastic is a material created from polymers such as cellulose, coal or crude oil. According to Plastic Oceans , despite there being alternatives, plastic continues to be present on our planet, as can be seen in the graph below, which demonstrates the global growth in plastic production.

Graph showing the growth in plastics production

The Resin Identification Coding System, created in 1988 by the Plastics Industry Society in the United States of America, establishes a set of symbols that identify the plastic resin from which the product is made. This code allows us to have an idea of ​​how to recycle each plastic.

PET: Polyethylene terephthalate

This type of plastic is one of the most used because it is light, transparent, waterproof, impact resistant and easily recyclable.

It can be used in food and cosmetic packaging and fabrics.

HDPE: High density polyethylene

Polyethylene is the most common plastic, classified into high and low densities. If it is high density, it is a more rigid material, resistant to chemicals and waterproof.

It is usually used in boxes, packaging for cleaning and personal hygiene products, lids, among others.

Unlike PET plastic, which is made from petroleum, HDPE can be obtained from plant sources.

PVC: Polyvinyl chloride

Due to its impact on the environment and health, the use of PVC has decreased, as this is a plastic that can release dangerous toxins (for example, lead, dioxins, among others).

As they are a type of plastic that is rigid, waterproof and resistant, they have several applications. Due to these advantages and the fact that they have a low production cost, they are used in water and juice bottles, toys, tubes, hospital supplies, among others.

LDPE – Low density polyethylene

Unlike high density, low density Polyethylene is light, flexible, transparent and waterproof. Examples of this type of plastic are supermarket bags, household utensils, garbage bags and films for packaging food.

PP: Polypropylene

Polypropylene is one of the most durable plastics and is more heat resistant, making it ideal for food packaging. It is also rigid and allows it to preserve aromas. It can be used in the manufacture of containers, jars and jars.

PS: Polystyrene

Because it is flexible and has thermal insulation capacity, it is often used in the food, packaging and construction industries.

Like PVC, it is a dangerous material as it releases dangerous toxins such as styrene.

Other types of plastics

There are also other plastics that do not belong to any of the categories mentioned above or are combinations of several types. Within this category are Polycarbonates, which are used to build strong and resistant products, but which contain chemical compounds (bisphenol A) that are harmful to the environment.

Infographic showing the different types of plastic

What types of recyclable plastics are there?

Now that you have an idea of ​​the different types of plastic that exist around us, it's worth knowing which ones we can recycle.

Various types of plastics can be easily recycled. However, according to a study in the scientific journal Science Advances, only 9% of plastic has already been recycled. Most plastic is accumulated in landfills or as trash that ends up in the oceans.

But what types of plastics can we actually recycle? There are thermosets and thermoplastics. While thermoplastics can be melted and turned into new products, they can therefore be recycled; thermosets do not allow this fusion, which is why they are not recyclable.

Plastics we can recycle

  • PET: it is the most recycled plastic in the world, especially in fashion items;
  • HDPE: it is one of the easiest polymers to recycle;
  • PVC: despite being recyclable, the process is not considered viable at an industrial level;
  • LDPE: technically it can be recycled, but the process can be difficult;
  • PP: plastic that is difficult to recycle as it is mixed with other polymers;
  • PS: plastic that is difficult to recycle;
  • Others: plastics that are difficult to recycle.
Table with the different types of plastic

According to the Smart Waste Portugal Association , “(…) most packaging is recyclable in Portugal”. In other words, there are recyclable packaging that can be recycled at some point in its life cycle and there are those that are made with recycled materials.

What about packaging that is made from recycled material, like EcoX? What is the ideal percentage?

Mechanical recycling processes may have performance losses which will affect appearance and functionality in terms of flexibility, rigidity and resistance.

The new EcoX packaging is HDPE packaging. These HDPE packaging, in addition to being recyclable, can be made with recycled material. They can be made with more % recycled material; however, 50% is the amount that allows chemical protection and quality mechanical properties.

PET packaging, for example, can be molded with 100% recycled material; however, the color and functionality of the finished product may be affected.

Despite the importance of creating new packaging made from recycled material, the most important thing is to reuse packaging over and over again. That is why, in order not to affect the quality of the packaging and with the aim of being able to use it over and over again with any EcoX detergent, the new packaging is adapted for practical and circular use.

Author: Daniela Matos