Identify familiar masterbatch plastic products by numbers on them

Masterbatch plastic is the main ingredient of the vast majority of plastic products presenting on the markets. But have you ever noticed that there was a symbol of chasing arrows triangle covering a number ranging from one to seven inside on nearly every masterbatch plastic product that you have at home? Are you curious on their meanings? Keep reading this article to know what they are.

masterbatch plastic number

Masterbatch plastic products and misconception about the symbols in them

There is a misconception about this symbol remaining in quite a lot of customers. Some people believe that the chasing arrows symbol indicates for recyclability or reusability of the products. However, if the products contain this symbol, it does not mean that it can be recycled or reused. Actually, the little number inside the triangle is the most deciding component of the whole story. These numbers serving the purposes of identifying type of base resin/masterbatch plastic that the products are made of.

Gaining perception on these codes not only allows you to know what they are made of but also be able to identifying whether you should use that product for what purposes. For instance, there were a few types of plastic that can be used to store food and drinks. Let’s dig into this topic to know what these numbers say.

Number 1 – masterbatch plastic products made of PET

For those products with the number 1 on their packaging, it means those products are made of polyethylene terephtalate (PET or PETE). PET is one of the most commonly used plastics in consumer goods production, especially in producing food and beverage containers. It is also found to have some application in making plastic packaging. Masterbatch made from this plastic achieve the clear appearance and is quite safe to be used in food industry. However, it is recommended for single use applications, recycle is capable (about 25% of PET bottles in the US are recycled afteruse) but not reuse. The porous surface of this plastic masterbatch plastic causes it easy to be contaminated with bacteria once it is empty. Moreover, it is also difficult to be decontaminated and requires harmful chemical to do it properly. 

pet masterbatch plastic

Number 2 – products made of HDPE masterbatch plastic

Number 2 stands for products made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE). This masterbatch is opaque in color, thus it is commonly used to manufacture milk jugs, detergent and oils bottles, toiletry bottles, toys, and some plastic bags. This plastic is rigid and durable even if being exposed to direct sunlight or extreme high or low temperatures. Due to this, it is also used in production of plastic plumbers, plastic pipes, waste bins and outdoors furniture and accessory stuffs in general. HDPE resin is quite safe for using in food industry thanks to low risk of bacterial contamination. It seems to be versatile, reusable and recyclable. This is considered as one of the safest plastics which is easily, simply and cost-effectively recycled for further uses. Approximately 30-35% of products made of HDPE masterbatch plastic is recycled in the USA.

hdpe masterbatch plastic

Number 3 – products made of PVC masterbatch plastic

If you see this chasing arrows triangle with number 3 on some products, you can conclude that those were made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) – a plastic that is not safe for using in food and beverage industry since softening chemicals in this masterbatch plastic is toxic to our health, especially for the hormonal development. PVC plastic is soft and quite flexible, thus it is usually used to make food wrap, toys, plumbers, pipes and a wide range of other household appliances. Carefulness should be ensured whenever using products made of PVC resin since once it was placed near heat sources, highly toxic dioxins can be released.


Number 4 – products made of LDPE masterbatch plastic

Did you know that most of bags used in grocery stores today are made of low-density polytethylene (LDPE) – the masterbatch labeled as number 4. LDPE plastic is safer and less toxic than others, however it is not hard and rigid as HDPE resin. Beside grocery bags, LDPE plastic is also found in lumber, garbage can liners, floor tiles, landscaping boards, etc.


Number 5 – products made of PP masterbatch plastic

Number 5 in plastic products indicates for the polypropylene (PS) origin. PS masterbatch plastic is lightweight, hard and durable under heat conditions thus products made of this plastic is widely applied in food industries as containers, boxes and bottles storing margarine, yogurt, cereal, potato chips, etc. This plastic is recyclable although there was just a few of them (about 3%) are currently recycled in the US.


Number 6 – products made of PS masterbatch plastic

Number 6 in plastic field suggests that product is made of Polystyrene masterbatch. The number application of polystyrene is various since it is lightweight, inexpensive and easily-formed. However, this plastic structure if weak and easily broken due to harsh conditions. Another downside of this plastic is that it contains a possibility to harmfully affect consumer’s health when the styrene and other chemicals may be secreted out from PS masterbatch plastic and enter food contained. Aside from that, this plastic is not widely accepted for recycling due to the limited market for recycling, leading to the fact that 35% of landfill material in US is filled with this plastic.


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Number 7 – products made of other masterbatch plastic (BPA, PC, etc.)

This category includes all forms of other masterbatch plastic except 6 previously mentioned plastics thus the reusability and recyclability vary in the wide range depending on the specific plastic. All plastics in this group were made after 1987 and considered not safe since there was risk for chemical leaching into food and drinks, especially for those stored in containers made of polycarbonate (PC) associated with BPA (Bisphenol A) – an endocrine disruptor being known to cause neural problems. There was also a small group in category #7 which labeled with “PLA” coding. This code indicates that the product is compostable so after being used, they should be treated as compost instead of being thrown into the recycle bin.

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