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Recycling Symbols - Decoded

Decoding the Recycling Symbols

Recycling Symbols - Arrows The “chasing arrows” are the universally recognized symbol for recycling; however there are no standards or rules governing its use.  Therefore, business and organizations are free to modify it to identify their unique environmental commitment. 

These symbols, often found on the bottom of containers or inside of lids, generally mean that something is made from a material that is recyclable.  The icons that follow are the generally accepted graphics and their meaning.
Recycling Symbols - Arrows inside of a Circle In general, the open (white background) or closed (black background) circles around the chasing arrows mean that something is made from recycled content; in this case, 20%.  Usually, these materials can be recycled again.

Fiber (Cardboard & Paperboard)

Recycling Symbols - Cardboard & Paper
The first symbol*, found on corrugated cardboard, indicates that the material is recyclable where facilities and programs exist.

Used pizza boxes (i.e. grease-contaminated) are usually not recyclable!  Throw them in the garbage.

The second symbol* indicates that the paperboard is made from 100% recycled fibers.


Recycling Symbols - Glass
This symbol*, occasionally found on glass items, indicates that the material is recyclable where facilities and programs exist.  Even if a glass beverage bottle does not have this symbol, it is still recyclable. 

Unless you are instructed to do so as part of a “single-stream” recycling program, do not add glass to your paper/fiber bin.  In addition, do not add non-beverage glass unless they are accepted by your program


Recycling Symbols - Plastics
The numbers in the triangle and the letters underneath the triangle, both mean the same thing, and are used interchangeably.  The number and letters indicate the chemical make-up of the plastic. 

#1 or PETE may also appear as PET and #3 or PVC may also appear as V.  #6 or Polystyrene is also commonly known as styrofoam.

In order to achieve a clean, non-contaminated stream of material to recycle into new materials, it is important to recycle only the compatible numbers together, as directed by your local program. 

Most plastics recycling programs accept #1 and #2 plastics only and only those with narrow-neck openings, such as soda bottles and detergent containers.  Jars, such as peanut butter jars, and plastic egg continers may not be acceptable in all areas.

Imagine the problems that would be caused by adding a new red shirt to a load of whites in your washing machine… uncompatible!  Separation is key.  Check your local program for acceptable types of plastics.

Click here for a list of facilities that will accept other types of plastics such as #3, #5, and #6 and otherwise unacceptable forms of #1 and #2.

* The corrugated, paperboard and glass symbols used herein have been developed by
or are trademarks of one of the following:
100% Recycled Paperboard Alliance, Corrugated Packaging Council, Glass Packaging Institute

Additional Information:

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