Understanding Recycling Symbols & labels


A company can label its packaging with the green dot even if the product is not recyclable and is not made from recycled products – it means that the company has donated money towards the recycling of packaging somewhere in the world.

Indicates that a product can be recycled, but not necessarily that it has been itself produced from recycled materials. Sometimes it has a percentage figure in the middle, indicating how much of the product comes from recycled materials.

The tidy man symbol is placed on a lot of packaged items and is a reminder to the customer to dispose of the packaging in an appropriate manner. This does not mean that the item is recyclable.


PETE or PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate)

This plastic is usually clear and used to make soda and water bottles. Some consider it safe, but this plastic is known to allow bacteria to accumulate.

Found in soda bottles, water bottles, beer bottles, salad dressing containers, mouthwash bottles, and peanut butter containers.
Recyclability – widely accepted
Recycled into tote bags, furniture, carpet, panelling, fibre, and polar fleece.

HDPE (High Density Polyethylene)

This plastic is typically opaque. It is one of the 3 plastics considered to be safe, and has a lower risk of leaching.

Found in grocery bags, milk jugs, juice, shampoo and motor oil bottles, cereal box liners, motor oil bottles, yogurt and butter tubs.
Recyclability – widely accepted
Recycled into pens, recycling containers, picnic tables, lumber, benches, fencing, and detergent bottles.

V or PVC (Vinyl or Polyvinyl Chloride)

This is used to make food wrap, plumbing pipes, and detergent bottles. These plastics used to, and still may, contain phthalates, which are linked to numerous health issues ranging from developmental problems to miscarriages. They also contain DEHA, which can be carcinogenic with long-term exposure. DEHA has also been linked to loss of bone mass and liver problems. DO NOT COOK WITH OR BURN THIS PLASTIC.

#3Found in shampoo bottles, clear food packaging, cooking oil bottles, medical equipment, piping, and windows, shower curtains and kid’s toys.
Recyclability – check locally
Recycled into panelling, flooring, speed bumps, decks, and roadway gutters.

LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene)

Low density polyethylene is most found in squeezable bottles, shopping bags, clothing, carpet, frozen food, bread bags, and some food wraps. This plastic is considered to be safe.

#4Found in squeezable bottles, plastic bags, clothing, carpet, bread bags, and some food wraps.
Recyclability – check locally
Recycled into compost bins, panelling, trash can liners and cans, floor tiles, and shipping envelopes.

PP (Polypropylene)

This plastic is one of the safer plastics to look for.

#5Typically found in yogurt containers, ketchup bottles, syrup bottles, and medicine bottles.
Recyclability – check locally
Recycled into brooms, auto battery cases, bins, pallets, signal lights, ice scrapers, and bicycle racks.

PS (Polystyrene)

Polystyrene is Styrofoam, which is notorious for being difficult to recycle, and thus, bad for the environment. This kind of plastic also poses a health risk, leaching potentially toxic chemicals, especially when heated.

#6Found in compact disc cases, egg cartons, meat trays, and disposable plates and cups.
Recyclability – limited
Can be recycled into egg cartons, vents, foam packing, and insulation.

Other, Misc (BPA, Polycarbonate and LEXAN)

All of the plastic resins that don’t fit into the other categories are placed in the number 7 category. It’s a mix bag of plastics that includes polycarbonate, which contains the toxic bisphenol-A (BPA). These plastics should be avoided due to possibly containing hormone disruptors like BPA, which has been linked to infertility, hyperactivity, reproductive problems, and other health issues.

#7Found in safety shields/glasses, computer cases, nylon, 3 and 5 gallon water bottles, headlight lenses and plastic lumber.
Recyclability – generally not recyclable. Bio-based plastics can sometimes be composted.


The recyclable steel recycling code informs people that this particular item is made of recyclable steel.

#steelThis recycling symbol indicates that the material is steel and this material is widely recycled. If this is from a food or drinks container please wash the item prior to recycling.


This recycle icon informs the customer that the item is made of recyclable aluminium, to help encourage people to recycle materials.

#aluThis recycling symbol indicates that the material is aluminium and can be placed into an aluminium or mixed metal recycling container. If this is from a food or drinks container please wash the item prior to recycling.


On-Pack Recycling Label (OPRL)

The award winning On-Pack Recycling Label delivers a simple, consistent and UK-wide recycling message on both retailer and brand packaging to help consumers recycle more material, more often.

Look out for these OPRL labels which appear on all sorts of packaging – from soft drink cans, to bread bags and plastic toiletry bottles. The labels give clear information for each packaging component (e.g. tray, carton, sleeve, film) and material (card, paper, foil, plastic etc) and have been developed to Help more consumers to recycle more packaging correctly.
More information and to see all the labels and what they mean – www.oprl.org.uk


TerraCycle is an innovative recycling company that has become a global leader in recycling hard-to-recycle waste.

#terracycleTerraCycle offers free recycling programs funded by brands, manufacturers, and retailers around the world to help you collect and recycle your hard-to-recycle waste. Plastic packaging waste that is not upcycled is recycled into a raw material that can be used in plastic products including playgrounds, plastic lumber, plastic pavers, bike racks, park benches, and garbage and recycling cans. More information –

Tetra Pak

Since the aseptic packages contain different layers of plastic and aluminium in addition to raw paper, they cannot be recycled as “normal” paper waste, but need to go to special recycling units for separation of the different materials. Tetra Pak has operated limited recycling since the mid-1980s, introducing a recycling program for its cartons in Canada as early as 1990.
Once separated, the aseptic carton results in aluminium and pure paraffin, which can be used in industry.
In 2010, 30 billion used Tetra Pak carton packages were recycled, a doubling since 2002.
As of 2011, 20% of Tetra Pak cartons are recycled globally, with countries like Belgium, Germany, Spain and Norway showing local recycling rates of over 50%.

#tetra pakTetra Pak cartons are more difficult to recycle than tin cans and glass bottles. The difficulty lies in the fact that the process demands specific recycling plants that are not easily accessible and that if not recycled, they end up in landfills. Tetra Pak has stated that it is currently working on joint ventures with local governments around the world to increase the number of recycling facilities. More information – www.tetrapak.com



Cardboard boxes.

#20 Can be recycled, however, the plastic in “wax-coated cardboard” (cardboard coated in plastic), can’t be cleanly separated from the paper underneath.

Mixed Paper

Often found in magazines, mail (including junk mail).

#21This means the paper has a variety of content or finishes – magazines and junk mail often fit this category.


Common usage: fast food sandwich wrappers, letter/printer paper, meat packing, gum wrappers, some drink boxes.

#22 This is your standard office paper and is the easiest category to recycle.


Mixed Glass

A glass bottle is 100% recyclable with many new bottles containing glass which was created over 20 years ago.

#70Glass bottles and jars are 100% recyclable and can be recycled endlessly without any loss in purity or quality. Recycled glass reduces emissions and consumption of raw materials. Glass which is not recycled, but crushed, reduces the volume of waste sent to landfills.

Clear Glass

Even though glass bottles are eco friendly, they do not decompose, therefore if not disposed of in correct manor they cause serious pollution.

#71Over a ton of natural resources are saved for every ton of glass recycled. One ton of carbon dioxide is reduced for every six tons of recycled container glass used in the manufacturing process.

Green Glass

Glass retains its colour after recycling.

#72Other uses for recycled glass include: fiberglass insulation products, ceramic sanitary ware production, Astroturf, agriculture and landscape applications, or golf bunker sand, recycled glass countertops and abrasives.



This relatively new recycling symbol indicates that a packaging material is compostable. You may see this logo on certain types of carrier bags, garden waste bags, fresh produce containers and tableware. These products when placed in a compost container will break down into small pieces within 90 days leaving no toxic residue. This symbol is a registered trademark of European Bioplastics.

#biodegradable Never place compostable plastic into the recycling with other plastics; as it is designed to break down it cannot be recycled and contaminates recyclable plastics. Compostable Plastics are biodegradable through composting. They are not hazardous/toxic in production and decompose back into carbon dioxide, water, biomass etc. when composted.

Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment

Lots of things that fall into this category including items such as alarm clocks; CD/DVD/Cassette players and game consoles; small kitchen appliances such as kettles, toasters, food mixers and blenders, microwave ovens; personal grooming products like hairdryers, straighteners, curling tongs, electric toothbrushes and shavers; garden tools such as lawnmowers, hedge trimmers and leaf blowers/shredders; other items such as lamps, torches, vacuum cleaners, telephones, mobiles, radios, TV’s, printers, camcorders, cameras and smoke alarms.

#weee logo An item is recyclable if it: 1. has a plug, 2. uses batteries, 3. needs charging or 4. has the WEEE symbol (crossed out wheeled bin) on it.
Check locally to find out if the item can be recycled or, best way to organise the collection/disposal of these items.

Not Eco-Friendly

Hazardous waste is waste that is dangerous or potentially harmful to our health or the environment. Hazardous wastes can be liquids, solids, gases, or sludges. They include commercial products, such as cleaning fluids or pesticides, and some by-products of manufacturing processes. Hazardous waste should not be dumped into a landfill like other waste. It needs to be disposed of responsibly to prevent hazards to human and environmental health.

#non-recycling Never mix hazardous waste with normal rubbish. Many items that can become a hazardous waste problem can be recycled, or in some cases, reclaimed – for example batteries can be recycled. Check locally to find out what items can be recycled or the best way to dispose of this type of waste.