You’ll definitely have seen them, but do you understand them?
It’s pretty likely that you’ve seen the recycling symbols that appear on all sorts of packaging. The idea of them is to make our lives easier by informing us if certain items can be recycled or not, and what the packaging is made from.
More often than not, these tiny, microscopic images can leave us feeling even more confused about the recycling process, particularly as there are so many of them to understand!
Let us take you through the main recycling symbols and what you need to know for each one. Once you understand the recycling requirements of your everyday packaging, you’ll hopefully be able to increase what you recycle and put the plans in place to make the most of recycling within your office, workplace or home.
Before we start let’s first help you understand where to find recycling symbols on your packaging, and the difference between OPRL and other popular recycling symbols…
On-pack recycling label (OPRL)
An on-pack recycling label is featured on most of your everyday packaging including soft drink cans, crisp packets, bread bags, plastic bottles, toiletry bottles, and so on. They’re designed to help consumers correctly recycle or reuse.
The on-pack advice is usually within a prominent position and guides whether the packaging can be collected from your household/business bins or taken to a local recycling centre.
If in doubt, pop your postcode into the recycling locator tool to clarify what goes where!
This label is applied to packaging that is widely collected for recycling. It is collected by 75% or more of local authorities and then sorted, processed and recycled into new products/packaging.
This label is seen on packaging that isn’t widely collected by local authorities (less than 50%). It is not able to be sorted, processed and recycled into new products or packaging.
Recycle / Rinse
If recyclable packaging that once contained food isn’t rinsed adequately, the residue could contaminate other collected materials, e.g., yoghurt pots, soup tins.
Recycle / Rinse / Lid on
Certain elements of packaging are too small to be recycled alone. Caps and lids that fall below 40mm in diameter are too small to be sorted correctly at recycling plants. This label means that you should replace the cap/lid on the bottle so it can all be collected and recycled as one unit.
Recycle with bags at large supermarkets / Don’t recycle at home
This label can be seen on plastic wrapping like bread bags, fruit and veg bags, chocolate wrappers, crisp packets, etc. You can recycle this type of packaging at specialist recycling points in selected supermarkets.
Recycle / Bottle cap on / Don’t recycle / Remove sleeve
Often you will need to separate packaging before it can be recycled or thrown away. You’ll see this label on packaging where a sleeve, film or liner can be easily removed from the main packaging item. In this instance, the sleeve will be removed from the bottle and thrown away. The bottle can then be recycled correctly.
Popular recycling logos
The green dot is slightly confusing as it doesn’t mean that packaging is recyclable, will be recycled or has been recycled. This symbol is used on packaging in some European countries and signifies that for every piece of packaging, the producer has made a financial contribution to a national packaging recovery organisation. It is not a mandatory trademark.
Any packaging that contains this symbol is capable of being recycled. It doesn’t mean that it has been recycled or will be accepted for recycling.
If the packaging does contain recycled material, the symbol will show a % in the middle to indicate the proportion of the item that has been made from recycled materials.
One of the most popular logos, this is not related to recycling but serves as a reminder to consumers to dispose of their litter considerately. It is widely featured on packaging but may also be used by brands for a nominal contributory fee towards the wider work of the Keep Britain Tidy charity. Its overall aim is to eliminate litter and waste, improve public space and to help people live more sustainably.
This symbol is a reminder to recycle your glass containers such as glass bottles and jars.
This symbol indicates that an item is made from recyclable aluminium and can be recycled for reuse.
This symbol means that you shouldn’t place electrical items in the general waste. Instead, they should be recycled through a recycling centre or with retailers. In some cases, local authorities can offer recycling of small electrical items and batteries through household/business collections.
Items that carry the ‘seedling’ symbol can be recycled by a local authority through garden waste collections. You should never put compostable plastics into your recycling or food waste recycling bin.
Paper, card and wood
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo is one of the worlds most trusted marks and is displayed on products which contain wood from sustainably managed forests. These forests have been independently certified in accordance with the rules of the FSC.
The RESY recycling symbol is often displayed on paper and cardboard packaging. It guarantees that packaging with this symbol is recyclable and will be accepted by cardboard recyclers.
We hope that’s helped to clarify some of your common questions regarding what should and shouldn’t be recycled. If you have any further questions, Unisan would be more than happy to help!
We hope that this guide has helped you understand the possibilities with recycling, and how with expert support, education and products, recycling strategies can be highly successful.
To discover more insightful information and guides on recycling, visit our News and Insights pages for the latest eco-friendly and sustainability news from us and the wider recycling community.
How can Unisan help with recycling?
Unisan’s key mission is to empower and support workspace recycling, in any environment. We are continually assisting organisations in achieving their sustainability goals and helping businesses demonstrate their commitment to both the environment and their workforce.
Please get in touch and we’ll have a chat about your recycling scheme.