Recycling symbols explained, What do they mean?

This week (Sep 19th – Sep 25th), we celebrate the Recycle Week, the UK’s largest recycling campaign dating back to 2004. To celebrate such a special occasion, we have prepared this blog post to raise awareness about recycling and the meaning behind the symbols you can find on the packaging of many products.

mobius recycling symbol

We start with perhaps the most well-known recycling symbol, the Mobius loop. Surely you are familiar with this symbol, but you didn’t even know it had a name. Well, now you know it! This symbol is used to indicate that a product can be recycled, but not necessarily has been made from recycled materials. When that’s the case, the symbol will have a percentage figure inside the loop indicating the proportion of the product made from recycled materials.

green dot recycling

We continue with another familiar symbol, the Green Dot. The Green Dot is a protected trademark that producers can include in their packaging when they pay a financial contribution to a qualified national packaging recovery organisation set up in accordance with the principles defined in European Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive 94/62 and the respective national law.

OPRL logo

Next, there’s the On-Pack Recycling Label (OPRL), a scheme that provides simple and easy to understand recycling guidelines on many products’ packaging. These labels provide a clear advice to consumers so they can reuse and recycle packaging correctly and more often. The main labels are:

OPRL symbols recycling 

  • Widely Recycled: it means that packaging is collected for recycling by at least 75% of the local authorities in the UK.
  • Check Locally: packaging containing this label are collected by less than 75% of local authorities, but more than 20%, making it recommendable to check whether your local council is one of them.
  • Not Yet Recycled: indicates that less than 20% of local authorities collect this packaging for recycling.

In addition, the label can contain instructions and parts of the packaging like the word “Rinse”, indicated to remove any residue from the packaging before recycling, or “Flatten, Cap On” in the case of plastic bottles to reduce cost and environmental impact.

Compostable logo

The following symbol certifies that the packaging is compostable in an industrial composting facility. It can be disposed of with the general waste or the garden waste, but it should not be placed in the recycling bin as they are not designed to be repurposed. 

aluminium recycling symbol

This symbol simply indicates that the product is made from recyclable aluminium.

FSC logo 

This FSC symbol is one that can be found in many of our wooden products. FSC stands for Forest Stewardship Council, an international non-profit organisation that promotes the environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable management of the world's forests. In essence, it means that the material of the product comes from responsibly managed forests.


Who doesn’t know the Tidyman? First introduced in 1969, it is a reminder to dispose of any packaging in a responsible manner.

tidyman glass

Another version of the Tidyman, only this time disposing of a glass bottle. Glass is infinitely recyclable and this symbol is a reminder to dispose of glass bottles responsibly so they can be recycled.

plastic recycling codes

Finally, when it comes to recycling plastic, a code number is used in the symbol to indicate what kind of plastic the product is made from. As you may know, not all plastics are the same and not all of them are recyclable. They are categorised depending on the plastic resin used in the packaging and these categories range from 1 to 7. In a nutshell, the lower the number, the more recyclable it is.   

plastic recycling code
  1. Polyethylene Terephthalate. It is widely recycled and it can be found commonly in single-used bottles, such as water bottles, soft drink bottles, ketchup bottles, cooking oil bottles, 
plastic recycling code
  1. High-Density Polyethylene. It is widely recycled and it can be found in the packaging of many goods. These are shampoo bottles, detergent and bleach bottles, grocery bags…
plastic recycling code
  1. Polyvinyl Chloride. It is a hard and rigid plastic that can be recycled. It can be found in plumbing products, electrical cables and wire jacketing or window frames.
plastic recycling code
  1. Low-Density Polyethylene. It can be recycled and can be found in cling film, shopping bags, clear food containers like sandwich bags, and disposable packaging in general.
plastic recycling code
  1. Polypropylene. It is rarely recycled and it can be found in bottle caps and straws.
plastic recycling code
  1. Polystyrene or Styrofoam. It is rarely recycled and it can be found in disposable plastic cutlery and plates, meat trays or foam packaging
plastic recycling code
  1. Other. Any other plastic that doesn’t fit in any of the previous categories belongs here. They are rarely recycled and includes a wide variety of items such as, computer, DVDs, phone cases, car parts or bulletproof materials.