Recycling guide

What do all the symbols mean?

So you’ve figured out the five Rs of recycling, and you’ve been happily sorting your rubbish into the right bin – but you’ve suddenly noticed that quite a lot of the packaging and items in your house have all kinds of symbols on the side or the bottom. But, what do they all mean? 

You might be wondering why it is important for you to know what all of these symbols mean, well it’s basically shorthand for consumers to know how to identify which refuse goes where. 

While there might be quite a wide variety of symbols out there to sort through, this handy guide will summarize it all for you and will help you the next time you’re standing in front of your rubbish bins in doubt. 

You’ll find these symbols everywhere, from cans, plastic bags, and even shampoo and conditioner bottles. So keep your eyes peeled the next time you’re chucking something out.

Widely Recycled

This is probably the most commonly used symbol on recyclable packaging, and you’ll recognize it with its green background and white curvy arrow with a kind-of heart shaped arrowhead. There are different versions of this symbol, such as:

  • Widely Recycled: eg. plastic bottles. 

            These can be thrown out immediately. 

  • Widely Recycled – Rinse: eg. food packaging, such as food trays

            This kind of packaging needs to be given a quick rinse before being thrown out.

  • Widely Recycled – Rinse, Lid on: eg. jars with lids  

Items such as jars with lids also need to be given a quick rinse and if they have a lid,   you can throw them out with the lid on too. 

  • Widely Recycled – Flatten: eg. milk or juice cartons
  • Before throwing out these cartons, be sure to flatten them out so that you reduce space in your rubbish bag

The Green Dot

You’re sure to have seen this symbol before, it’s two intertwined dark and light green arrows.This green dot can be a bit confusing, as when you see this symbol on packaging, it does not necessarily mean that the packaging is recyclable, will be recycled in the future, or has been recycled in the past. 

What it does mean is that whoever produced this packaging has made some kind of financial contribution towards the recycling of packaging. So when you see this symbol, don’t just automatically throw it into the bin. Perhaps have a look at the symbols we talked about above, and then make your decision based on the material the packaging is made from.    

Mobius Loop and PET symbols

The Mobius Loop is another common symbol, with three white arrows forming a loop. What this symbol indicates is that the packaging is capable of being recycled, rather than that the object has been recycled in the past. Sometimes you’ll see this symbol with a percentage figure in the middle, indicating the percentage of recycled material used in the production of the packaging. 

The PET symbol is very similar to the Mobius Loop, with three white arrows and the word PET underneath the arrows. In the middle, you’ll find a number from 1 to 7, which indicates the ‘Resin Identification Code’. This lets you know what type of plastic resin was used to make the item. Since it’s made of plastic, you can easily recycle items with the PET symbol.    

Hopefully this handy guide has made it much easier for you to sort through the multiple symbols out there, and thus making it easier to sort through your rubbish! And remember, not all packaging will have a recycling label, but this doesn’t mean you can’t recycle it. Happy recycling everyone!