I just purchased a consumer product. It was packaged in a clear plastic 'disposable' container. This shipping container is not marked in any way. There is no material designation or recycling code marking any where on the plastic. I called the manufacturer of the product to complain, and they told me there there is no requirement for them to do so. They told me in the USA, this is dictated by state law.

I'm not sure I believe them. I can find lots and lots of stuff on what the identification markings mean, but virtually nothing on if manufacturers are REQUIRED to place them there in the first place. I've been wading through my state's published laws with extensive searches and I'm coming up totally empty.

Unmarked Plastic Packaging

I can find some info on the European Union requirements but I'm not seeing much on USA consumer goods, either at a US federal level or state level. Note I do see a whole lot of stuff on plastic bottles... (And on a funny side note, the best overview of EU laws comes from the US Commercial service, www.export.gov, an organization that helps US businesses sell products in the EU. What's funny about that? I can use a US government website to find about laws in other countries, but I can't find anything about the rules/ laws in the US. So yeah, I find that funny.)

Anybody know where to look to find out if consumer products and shipping material are REQUIRED to be marked for recycling in the USA?

1 Answer 1


I can’t find proof in any legal documentation, but I did find several documents online that say that 39 US states require a SPI code (or Resin Identification Code or RIC as it is also called) on plastic bottles and containers.

One document I found has the following table:

Table with SPI Labeling Requirements in the United States

Looking at the name of the document I suspect that it was created in 2008, so things may have changed. The same document also gives some examples of non-containers for which the SPI code apparently is not mandatory:

The SPI code is not required for non-containers, such as plastic films, bags, trays, etc. per use of the SPI code on such packaging as a voluntary labeling method is currently permitted.

  • 1
    Wow. Thanks. The fact that you used "SPI", an unexplained abbreviation, got me researching, and I found a lot of stuff there. SPI = "Society of the Plastics Industry" Apparently as of June 2013, there are 39 states which have adopted legislation regarding the use of these markings. Unfortunately (as you've noted), the laws generally only affect bottles of 16 ounces or more and rigid containers of 8 ounces or more. ref: http://www.plasticsindustry.org/AboutPlastics/content.cfm?ItemNumber=823&navItemNumber=1125
    – zipzit
    Commented Nov 20, 2014 at 17:08

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