Do you know what recycling symbols really mean?

Have you ever seen this little circular “recycling” symbol on a product and thought you were buying a something that is “green” or recyclable, only to find it’s not recycled by your local council?

You’re not alone.

It turns out that around 50% of respondents to a survey carried out in the UK by Which? thought that products stamped with the “green dot” were recyclable, when in fact it means only that a manufacturer has paid into a scheme that supports recycling.

It does not mean the item is recyclable or made of recycled content!

There a lot of packaging symbols out there that all look very similar and seem to point towards recycling, but they’re not always what they seem!

Most consumers are confused by these symbols, resulting in less packaging being recycled at home.

So, how well do you know your recycling symbols?

You will have seen most of these symbols on products and packaging, but have you really given much thought to what they mean?

This symbol is found on products and packaging that are made from recycled material. It does not mean the item can be recycled.

This is the “Mobius Loop” and is found on products and packaging that are recyclable. It does not mean they have recycled content in them. It also does not mean that your local council collect this item, so may not be recyclable in your area.

This is the “Green Dot”, It’s the most common symbol found on products and packaging. It means a contribution to the recycling of packaging as a whole (not necessarily that product) is paid for by producer. This is linked to something called a packaging recovery note (PRN’s).

PRN’s are a way of the UK government holding producers to account for the types of products they produce and encouraging them to use more recyclable materials in their processes. It is flawed and needs updating – exciting news to come in the Resource and Waste Strategy this is currently out for consultation now on this!

This symbol is found on plastic packaging. The number indicates one of seven types of recyclable plastic used to create the product.
It does not mean it is necessarily recyclable in your area. Most Council’s focus on product type, such as “bottles” or “pots, tubs and trays” rather than numbers.

Last but not least, my favorite recycling symbol – everyone has one, right?!

This is an example of the “Recycle Now”* campaign symbols found on most supermarket packaging. It’s easy to understand what you are buying and how to dispose of it.

It is used with text to indicate that material can be recycled widely, or in a particular area and is aimed at making recycling easier for the consumer. 

*Recycle now is run by the Waste Resource Action Programme, which is a government funded body that works with manufacturers, supermarkets and Councils to encourage the 3Rs. 

These are just a few of the most common symbols.

There are a lot more recycling symbols for packaging out there, but I thought I’d bore your socks off if I listed them all!

I hope you feel a bit more informed about what your buying next time you are in the supermarket!

Happy Global Recycling Day!

Emilie x


1 thought on “Do you know what recycling symbols really mean?”

  1. Pingback: What are the UK Government doing to improve recycling and reduce waste?

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