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What Recycle Number Are Water Bottles

TL;DR: The majority of water bottles are composed of a type of plastic known as PET (polyethylene terephthalate), which bears the recycling symbol with the number 1 inside. PET is widely accepted by recycling programs, but it’s always crucial to check your local recycling guidelines for the specifics.

Breaking Down Plastic Recycling Symbols and Numbers

Water bottles, like many other plastic items, bear small symbols on their underside or sides. The symbol, a triangle composed of three chasing arrows, signifies that the item is recyclable.

The numeral inside the triangle refers to the kind of plastic used in the product’s manufacture. The numbers range from 1 to 7, each representing a different plastic type.

As mentioned, water bottles typically bear the number 1, designating them as PET products. This material is widely accepted by recycling programs because of its ability to be recycled into various products, such as textiles, insulation, and, of course, more bottles.

The Importance of Recycling Water Bottles

Water bottles are ubiquitous in our modern society. They provide a convenient means of staying hydrated, particularly while on the go. However, they also contribute significantly to environmental pollution if not correctly disposed of.

I recommend that we all make an effort to recycle our water bottles. By doing so, we can help to reduce waste and promote a healthier environment.

Additionally, we can reduce the demand for new plastic production, thus conserving resources and energy.

Steps to Recycle Water Bottles

Recycling water bottles is a straightforward process that involves the following steps:

  1. Empty the Bottle: Ensure the water bottle is empty before recycling it. Liquid remnants can contaminate the recycling process.
  2. Remove the Cap: Although caps are usually made of plastic, they are often a different kind of plastic than the bottle itself. Removing the cap ensures that the different plastics can be correctly sorted for recycling.
  3. Rinse the Bottle: Rinsing the bottle removes any remaining liquid and possible contaminants.
  4. Compress the Bottle: If possible, compress the bottle to save space in your recycling bin.
  5. Place in Recycling Bin: Finally, place the bottle in your recycling bin. Ensure your local recycling program accepts PET (#1) plastic.

Deeper Dive: Understanding Plastic Recycling Codes

Understanding the different plastic recycling codes is vital to correctly sorting your waste. Here, I’ll outline what each number represents and the typical uses for each plastic type.

Plastic #1: PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate): As already mentioned, this is the most common plastic for single-use bottled beverages, because it’s inexpensive, lightweight, and easy to recycle. However, it’s usually intended for single use and can harbor bacteria over time.

Plastic #2: HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene): This plastic is commonly found in milk jugs, detergent bottles, and toys. HDPE is considered one of the safest plastics and is easily recyclable.

Plastic #3: PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride): Found in everything from pipes to toys, PVC is difficult to recycle and can leach toxic chemicals. I recommend avoiding this plastic whenever possible.

Plastic #4: LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene): This plastic is often used for shopping bags, squeezable bottles, and food storage containers. While not commonly recycled, it’s considered a safe plastic.

Plastic #5: PP (Polypropylene): Found in yogurt cups and bottle caps, PP is not always accepted by curbside recycling programs but is gaining in recyclability.

Plastic #6: PS (Polystyrene): Also known as styrofoam, PS can be difficult to recycle and may leach styrene, a potential human carcinogen, into food and drinks.

Plastic #7: Other: This category is a catch-all for different plastic types, including polycarbonate from which many reusable water bottles are made. Many of these plastics are not recyclable.

The Lifecycle of a Recycled Water Bottle

The journey of a water bottle from your recycling bin to a new product is quite fascinating. Here’s a detailed walkthrough:

  1. Collection: Your water bottle starts its journey when you place it in the recycling bin. From there, it’s transported to a recycling facility.
  2. Sorting: At the facility, the bottle is sorted by its recycle number, #1, and grouped with similar plastics.
  3. Cleaning and Shredding: The bottles are then cleaned to remove any contaminants. After cleaning, they’re shredded into small flakes.
  4. Reselling: These flakes are sold to companies that turn them into a variety of products, from carpeting to new bottles and containers.
  5. New Products: The flakes are melted down and molded into new shapes, ready to be sold again.

Note: While this process helps reduce plastic waste, recycling is not a perfect solution. Some plastic can degrade in quality during recycling, and not all plastic waste ends up being recycled.

Tips for Better Recycling

Effective recycling goes beyond merely knowing your numbers. Here are a few additional tips that I highly recommend:

  • Look Beyond The Kitchen: Many people only recycle materials from the kitchen. Don’t forget about shampoo bottles, toilet paper rolls, and other recyclable items from around the house.
  • Recycling Isn’t The Only Option: Remember the three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Reducing your consumption and reusing items are just as important as recycling.
  • Avoid “Wish-cycling”: This is when you put something in the recycling bin hoping it’s recyclable. When in doubt, it’s better to throw it out to avoid contaminating recyclable materials.

Thinking Beyond Single-Use

While we’ve focused primarily on single-use water bottles, I encourage you to consider the broader issue of single-use plastics. These items go beyond water bottles, including everything from grocery bags to disposable cutlery.

By reducing our consumption of these items, we can make a significant impact on the amount of plastic waste that ends up in our landfills and oceans.

Note: Always remember, it’s not just about recycling. Reducing our reliance on single-use items and reusing where we can are equally important steps towards a healthier planet.

Alternatives to Single-Use Water Bottles

While recycling is a crucial part of managing plastic waste, it’s not the only solution. Reducing our consumption of single-use plastics, including water bottles, is another significant way to help. Here are some alternatives I’d like to share:

  • Reusable Bottles: Reusable water bottles made of stainless steel or BPA-free plastic are a great alternative. They can be used numerous times and can save you money in the long run.
  • Water Filter Pitchers: If you’re concerned about the quality of your tap water, consider using a water filter pitcher. This way, you can enjoy clean, filtered water without the need for single-use bottles.
  • Install a Water Filter: Another option is to install a water filter on your tap. This can provide you with clean, filtered water directly from your faucet.

Note: Always remember to clean your reusable bottles regularly to maintain their hygiene.


When it comes to the question, “What recycle number are water bottles?” the answer is clear: they bear the number 1. However, our responsibility extends beyond merely knowing this number.

We must take the initiative to recycle these bottles properly and explore more sustainable alternatives when possible. Together, we can make a difference in our global plastic waste crisis.


Can all water bottles be recycled?

Most water bottles made of PET (#1) plastic can be recycled. However, it’s important to check with your local recycling program to ensure they accept this type of plastic.

What happens to water bottles when they are recycled?

When recycled, water bottles are cleaned, shredded into small pieces, then melted down and reshaped into new products.

Can the plastic caps of water bottles be recycled too?

Yes, they can. However, as they are often a different type of plastic than the bottle, it’s advisable to separate them before recycling.


  • Chris Chamberlan

    Chris Chamberlan, passionate animal welfare activist and USC graduate, conducted undercover RSPCA missions exposing slaughterhouse malpractices. A vegan and advocate for humane treatment, Chris has spoken at international conferences, been involved in vegan outreach, and founded Solarpunk Solutions for sustainability. His blending of animal welfare with eco-living principles for a compassionate future.

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