I bought a vacuum cleaner that came wrapped in several plastic bags. The bags only have one recycling code printed on them, the Japanese pura māku:

The Japanese recycling symbol: pura māku

Can these bags be recycled with ♴ or ♶ plastic film in the US?

  • 1
    This is a great question. Reading here, for example, it says that プラ mark plastics are to be recycled by law, but some of these plastics are unsuited for recycling. The recycling process (selection, washing, etc.) may actually be less environmentally friendly (compared to incineration, I guess). Whether the US has facilities capable of recycling プラ plastics, I don't know. In any case, the recycling process seems to be problematic already in Japan.
    – Earthliŋ
    Commented Feb 4, 2015 at 7:19
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    I'll post as a comment instead of an answer because I'm not entirely sure, but I think the mark just means 'plastic' without specifying what type. Since there is a law in Japan that all plastic containers and packaging have to be taken back or recycled by the manufacturer, it has become synonymous to recyclable plastic even though some plastics are incinerated in Japan. More info here. If you don't know what type of plastic it is, you can't recycle it properly so I think the answer is no.
    – THelper
    Commented Feb 4, 2015 at 8:32

2 Answers 2


Jumping into this late but I couldn't help it because this is what I do for a living (guide major corporations on recycling).

The mark you have simply means that the bag is plastic (it's not identifying which type). As mentioned above, it's the same as SPI codes (the numbers in the chasing arrows). No fee is paid to any organization for use of this code. It's just to help recyclers identify what material they're receiving.

Unfortunately because they didn't call out what type it was, it's not completely knowable. However, plastic bags are generally made with PE (polyethene, either LDPE or HDPE (the LD and HD refer to density levels)). Either way, you can place it in a proper recycling stream (either at a retail location or at a transfer station) and the recyclers can chose to keep it or weed it out.

Hope that helps!

  • Welcome to Sustainable Living and thank you for your answer! I'm glad you were able to confirm some of my suspicions which I wrote in this comment
    – THelper
    Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 17:51

The symbol

The symbol you posted (and similar recycling symbols all around the world) could only mean, that some kind of ecological charge was paid by manufacturer and that money is on the other hand given to recycling companies. Nothing else. Some of them does cooperate worldwide and sending/receiving money if the packaging materials are exported/imported, some does not. but the symbol definitely does not say anything about the material form which the plastic bags are made of.

From wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_recycling_symbols), this symbol is "Recyclable plastic", usually used with letters bellow depend on plastic type. As is on the picture below.

Japanse recyclyble plastci PP

The material

Actually, you have to decide by yourself if this plastic is possible to recycle, based on the material which it is made from.

Usually plastic bags are from some type of polyethylene, so probably it is possible to recycle it in US as well. It is plastic as any other, does not matter if the US symbol is missing. In Japan they are recycling plastics similarly as in any other country.

For recycling different materials/different plastics it is necessary to always distinguish the material from which it is made from, not if the ecological charge was paid and where.

plastic materials

the numbers and the letters, if used, seems to be the same in whole world.

... and some fun

And finally, some fun: It is not possible and definitely not sustainable to re-export the plastic bags back to Japan to be recycled there. :c)

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    The first part of your answer is incorrect. Most recycling logos do not mean that a fee was paid. In many countries the only function of the RIC codes is to indicate the used material. I'm only aware of one logo that does mean that an environmental fee was paid and that is the German 'Grüne Punkt'
    – THelper
    Commented Jan 18, 2016 at 15:31

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