Understand the meaning of symbols, numeric codes, and labels on plastic packaging for proper use

Plastic packaging has become a favourite in our daily lives, offering convenience in various shapes and sizes. It serves as an easy and practical storage medium for a wide range of products, including detergent, liquid shampoos and soaps, kitchen spices, as well as food and beverage items, among others.

Plastic packaging is commonly used in households, often for storing meals and carrying food and drinks on the go. However, not all types of plastic packaging are safe for food and beverage storage. Before delving into the various types of plastic packaging, it's essential to understand the meaning of symbols, numbers, and labels on plastic packaging. Let's explore these aspects further.

Meaning of the triangle symbol on plastic packaging

Usually, plastic packaging features a triangular symbol consisting of three arrows following each other. This symbol signifies recycling. When plastic packaging is no longer in use, it is advisable to recycle it to contribute to the creation of various items that use plastic as a raw material. 

This effort helps maintain cleanliness and environmental sustainability by reducing plastic waste, considering that plastic falls into the category of non-organic waste that is hard for nature to decompose.

Meaning of numeric codes on plastic packaging

Found in the centre of the recycling symbol is a numeric code ranging from 1 to 7, depending on the type of plastic used in each packaging. This numeric code is called the Resin Identification Code (RIC), introduced by the Plastics Industry Association in 1988. 

The RIC numeric code, usually located beneath the bottle or plastic packaging, serves to classify the type of plastic for appropriate use and recycling processes. This ensures that the plastic is safe to use, and recycling processes are more efficient.
Here are the plastic types based on RIC numeric codes:
  1. Numeric code 1: Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE/PET)
  2. Numeric code 2: High Density Polyethylene (HDPE/PEDH)
  3. Numeric code 3: Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC/V)
  4. Numeric code 4: Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE/PELD)
  5. Numeric code 5: Polypropylene (PP)
  6. Numeric code 6: Polystyrene (PS)
  7. Numeric code 7: Other (O), which includes Styrene Acrylonitrile (SAN), Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS), Polycarbonate (PC), and Nylon.
Out of these, PET, PE, and PP are three types of plastics used in IKEA products, all adhering to the strictest legal regulations and safety standards.

Meaning of labels on plastic packaging

In addition to the recycling symbol and RIC numeric code, some plastic packaging includes various labels, one of which is "BPA Free." This label indicates that the plastic packaging does not contain the chemical substance Bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is commonly found in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resin coatings for rust-proof cans.

Another label is "Food Grade Plastic," signifying that the plastic packaging is safe for storing food, including beverages.

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