You’ve probably noticed that a lot of your household items have strange markings on the side or underneath their labels. For the most part, you can get through life without worrying about it, but you can’t help but wonder what they mean.

As it turns out, ignoring some of these symbols can have serious consequences on both people and the environment.

Experts say that paying attention to the varying number system on the bottom of plastic containers is integral. But what exactly do those numbers mean? The answers might surprise you…

Take a look at the bottom of your plastic bottles. There’s a recycling symbol with a number on it. If you spot a number 1, odds are you’re drinking a soda or some water. These bottles are safe to reuse, but they can breed bacteria too, so be mindful. 

1-recycling-numbersBottles that display the number 2 are great if you’re looking for bottles to reuse at least a few times as they are less likely to encourage the leaching of chemicals than other numbers. These typically include milk jugs and common juice bottles.

milk jugs

Number 3 is not normally accepted at curbside service because these plastics contain DEHA, a toxic material. Research special recycling centers in your area to dispose of these. They are usually soap bottles, clear oil bottles, and old cables and wires.


Bottles with the number 4 are made from the safest plastic around and can be reused multiple times without breaking down and leaching into your liquids or skin. This grade of plastic is usually found in plastic bags, dry cleaning bags, and sandwich wraps.


Bottles with the number 5 are commonly used in food and medicine containers. This includes common condiments, such as ketchup bottles and even drinking straws. This number indicates that they are totally safe to reuse.


Bottles with the number 6 are commonly found in takeaway containers, eggs containers, and disposable plates. These are not safe to reuse whatsoever. In fact, they become even more dangerous than they already are if they are heated. 

egg-containers-1Stone Brothers

Usually found on larger water bottles and even some common baby bottles, number 7 plastics should never be reused under any circumstance. They contain BPA, which some researchers suggest can eventually lead to infertility. 

Muse Union

People are always looking for different ways to reuse plastic bottles. Of course, these numbers indicate when recycling isn’t appropriate, and in some cases doing so can be dangerous. When you find out what this village is doing with their old bottles, though, you’ll never look at them the same way again…


After witnessing some of the worst effects of plastic waste accumulation, Robert Bezeau decided to do something about it. So he founded the Plastic Bottle Village project  with the goal of solving two issues at the same time.


Using 83 acres of land on Isla Colon in Panama, Robert began constructing an entire village out of these used plastic bottles. His goal was to provide housing for the residents there while also recycling tons of trash simultaneously.


Each home requires roughly 14,000 plastic bottles and their goal is to make 120 homes in total — that’s nearly 1.7 million bottles! They also want to stock the village with a community center, several gardens, and a yoga pavilion. You can read more of Robert’s story here


There’s a lot more to plastics and recycling than most of us think about! Who knew something so easy to overlook is actually an issue of real safety?

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