GWP-Group-logo
Phone GWP Group - 01793 754 444
01793 754 444

Mon - Fri 08.00 - 17.00

Email GWP Group - info@gwp.co.uk
info@gwp.co.uk

Free advice & quotes

 
Reduce packaging costs

A range of strategies and ideas to reduce your ongoing packaging costs

Protective packaging

Protection for your products to prevent them being damaged in transit

Improve packaging efficiency

Strategies to streamline your operations, enhance efficiency and boost productivity

Packaging design service

Custom packaging tailored to your exact requirements by a team of experts

Environmentally friendly packaging

Help and advice in minimising the environmental impact of your packaging

Packaging Audit

Get a full, honest and no obligation review of your packaging and processes

Corrugated cardboard packaging

Cost effective cardboard transit packaging, cartons, boxes and shippers

Foam inserts and packaging

Protection from impact and mishandling for delicate items in transit

Correx packaging and handling products

Durable corrugated plastic packaging, including totes, bins, boxes and dividers

Anti static and esd safe packaging

Advanced protection for static sensitive items and electronic devices

Retail packaging and POS

Visually striking consumer packs and point of sale displays to boost your sales

Protective cases

Waterproof, aluminium and custom built cases for protecting your equipment

Returnable packaging and multi trip

Durable and long lasting returnable, line-side and multi use plastic containers

Corrugated board coatings

Specialist coatings to enhance performance of corrugated cardboard

Packaging guides and blog

A range of guides, tips and detailed articles on ways to improve your packaging

Case studies

Examples of successful packaging products, and how your business can benefit

Packaging markets

Specific industry knowledge and packaging expertise relevant to your business

Quality standards

Accreditations and standards to ensure the highest packaging quality

Packaging news at GWP

The latest news, events, sponsorships and more happening at GWP Group

Packaging careers

Looking for a new job in packaging? Find out how you can join our growing team…

15th February 2019

Posted In: Environment | Guides & Advice

Recycling Symbols Explained.

An explanation of packaging recycling symbols, plus free vector downloads

Chances are you have already seen recycling symbols on packaging you have come into contact with today.

And with the vast majority of businesses striving to become more environmentally sustainable in the face of changing consumer demands, the use of recycled and recyclable packaging is likely to continue.

But look closer and you will see there a surprisingly large number of differing recycling symbols. What do they all mean? And, should your business be using them on your own packaging?

Recycling symbols guide
With so many differing recycling symbols, it can be difficult to know what they all mean, and which ones to use on your packaging.

This guide, as well as explaining recycling symbols (which effectively detail how different packaging can be recycled), also provides a number of free resources.

This includes free vector (EPS) and JPEG downloads of all the major recycling symbols for you to use when creating the print artwork for your own packaging (please note permission / accreditation may be required to use specific logos).

Recycling symbols chart

Before providing a detailed explanation of each specific logo, the below recycling symbols chart provides a brief overview, illustration and the option to download the artwork files as required.

This chart provides an “at a glance” reference for seeing if / how specific types of packaging can be recycled, as well as those which are applicable for your own business’ packaging.

Important Notice

The downloadable files provided below are for use when you have the appropriate permission from the copyright holder, or governing body. It is your responsibility to ensure you can legally use these logos, and that you adhere to the correct usage guidelines. GWP Group Ltd can accept no responsibility for unlawful or incorrect use of the supplied symbols. If you have any doubt, please contact us using the details on this page.

Mobius Loop

A general (and widespread) symbol that indicates that the packaging (or sometimes product itself) is recyclable.

Mobius Loop (with percentage)

Mobius loop with percentage symbol

Indicates that the packaging is recyclable, but also the percentage that has been made from recycled material.

The Green Dot

Green Dot Symbol

Signifies the packaging producer has made contribution towards packaging recycling. Doesn’t necessarily mean the packaging itself is recyclable. Note: use requires permission.

FSC

FSC symbol

The Forest Stewardship Council logo identifies packaging / products which contain wood from well managed forests (requires certification). Note: use requires permission.

Corrugated Recycles

Corrugated recycles symbol

Developed by the International Corrugated Case Association, this symbol indicates that corrugated (cardboard) packaging can be recycled.

Compostable / Seedling

Seedling Symbol

A registered trademark owned by European Bioplastics, the “seedling” symbol proves that a product is certified industrially compostable according to the European standard EN 13432. Note: use requires permission.

OK Compost

OK Compost Symbol

This certifies packaging is compostable in an industrial composting unit (including inks, additives etc.) in accordance with  EN 13432: 2000 / EU packaging Directive ( 94/62/EEC).

OK Compost (Home)

OK Compost (Home) Symbol

As home composting does not generate the required heat to meet industrial guidelines, products suitable for home composting are marked with this specific symbol.

NAPM Recycled

NAPM Recycled Symbol

Now defunct, the National Association of Paper Merchants symbol indicates paper / board is manufactured from a minimum of 75% genuine waste paper and / or board fibre.

RESY

RESY Symbol

The RESY (GmbH) licensed symbol is for consolidation of transit packaging manufactured from corrugated cardboard only. It guarantees that packaging is recyclable. Note: use requires permission.

Widely Recycled

Widely recycled symbol

This recycling symbol is used on packaging that is collected by 75% (or more) of local authorities across the UK. This includes, for example, cardboard and plastic bottles.

Widely Recycled - Rinse

Widely recycled (rinse) symbol

As per above, but with instructions to rinse so that food / product residue does not contaminate other materials to be recycled.

Widely Recycled - Rinse, Lid On

Widely recycled (rinse lid on) symbol

Widely recycled, but with instructions to keep the lids on (e.g. glass jars). This is to prevent metal lids falling through sorting holes during the decontamination process. It can also help prevent other materials getting stuck inside.

Widely Recycled - Flatten, Cap On

Widely recycled (flatten) symbol

Flattening items such as plastic bottles makes transit more efficient (shipping less air), reducing cost and environmental impact.

Widely recycled / Sleeve not yet recycled

Widely recycled / sleeve not recycled symbol

This applies to items such as drinks bottles where the plastic sleeve is not recyclable, and should be removed prior to collection.

Widely recycled at recycling centres

Widely recycled at recycling centres symbol

This applies to all products that are not eligible for kerbside collection, but can be taken to local household recycling centres (e.g. paint tins)

Widely recycled / check locally for kerbside

Widely recycled (check locally) symbol

Some packaging – such as tetra packs, are recycled by a number of local authorities, but not all (meaning you should check first). They can be taken to household recycling centres.

Recycle with bags at larger stores

Widely recycled (larger stores) symbol

Certain types of plastics and films can be recycled along with supermarket carrier bags (this includes wraps found on newspapers, toilet rolls etc.). Recycling points for these are usually found at larger stores

Check locally

Check locallt recycling symbol

This recycling symbol is applied to packaging that is collected by between 20% and 75% of local authorities (e.g. specific types of plastic)

Not yet recycled

Not Yet Recycled Symbol

This symbol indicates that less that 20% of local authorities will collect the packaging for recycling (an example being crisp packets).

Glass

Glass recycling symbol

This symbol is used as a reminder to recycle glass packaging, either at recycling points or as part of your household recycling collection.

Aluminium

Aluminium recycling symbol

This symbol is used to indicate aluminium packaging that is fully recyclable (including foil, fizzy drink cans etc.).

Steel

Steel Recycling Symbol

This symbol indicates that the product / packaging is manufactured from steel, and can be recycled by your local authority.

Tidy-man

Tidy-Man Symbol

This symbol – from Keep Britain Tidy – doesn’t specifically relate to recycling, but acts as a reminder to not litter

Waste electricals

Waste Electrical Symbol

This symbol highlights that you should not place the electrical item in the general waste (it should be taken to a local recycling centre). Variations of this symbol can be used for other items too.

1: PETE

1 PETE Symbol

Polyethylene Terephthalate is one of the most common plastics used for packaging (drinks bottles, tubs etc.). It is recyclable.

2: HDPE

2 HDPE Symbol

High-density polyethylene is another of the more common plastics, being used for milk bottles as well as toys, kitchenware and cable insulation. Usually recyclable.

3: PVC

3 PVC Symbol

Polyvinyl chloride is used for manufacturing window frames and doors, but is also used  for wire insulation, flooring and footwear. It is not recyclable.

4: LDPE

4 LDPE Symbol

Low Density Polyethylene, whilst sometimes used in toys, is commonly used for squeezy bottles and packaging films. They are reusable, but not usually recyclable.

5: PP

5 PP SYmbol

Polypropylene is often used for products that are injection moulded and blow moulded, plus bottle tops, food containers and packing tape. Can usually be recycled.

6: PS

6 PS Symbol

Polystyrene is used for protective packaging inserts, but also CD cases, takeaway food trays and insulation products. It is not recyclable.

7: Other

7 Other Plastics Symbol

Other kinds of plastic not defined by the previous groups are put under this category (e.g. BPA, Polycarbonate, LEXAN). Generally not recyclable.

Recycling symbols on cardboard packaging

The remainder of this guide focuses on providing further details on those recycling symbols which would be most applicable to include on your corrugated packaging.

This will allow your business to not only chose the most appropriate recycling symbols for your packaging, but also educate your customers / end users on how best to recycle your packaging.

Businesses are also increasingly using recycling symbols to promote their environmental credentials – something which is growing in importance with specific consumer demographics who expect more sustainable packaging.

Mobius Loop Recycling Symbol

The Mobius loop is perhaps the most recognisable recycling sign.

Originally created by Gary Anderson, the three arrows are used to represent the three “R”s  – reducing, reusing and recycling. The negative space (in the centre) is also designed to represent a pine tree, whilst also being a variant of the traditional “Mobius” loop which symbolises continuity with a finite entity.

As the symbol was originally going to apply to just paper, the folding chasing arrows were designed to resemble folded newspapers.

There are actually 2 variants of this logo which can be used on your corrugated packaging.

The first, the symbol on its own, is now generally understood to be the international symbol for recycling, indicating that the packaging can be recycled. It doesn’t indicate that the packaging has been or is made from recycled material, merely that it can be in the future.

The Mobius loop with a percentage figure however, is used to show how much of the pack has been manufactured from recycled materials.

GWP Packaging Waste Regulations Guide

Free Guide

Checklist for Complying with Packaging Waste Regulations

Get your free guide for all the information you need to ascertain if and how you need to comply with the Packaging Waste Regulations. Download it now!

The Green Dot

The Green Dot logo does not actually mean that the packaging in question has been recycled, nor that it can be recycled (meaning it can sometimes be found on reusable packaging). It simply signifies that the producer has made a (usually financial) contribution towards the recycling of packaging.

The logo is an internationally protected trademark of PRO Europe – Packaging Recovery Organisation Europe – and a valid license must be obtained before you are able to use the symbol on your packaging.

It is mandatory in France, Germany, Portugal and Spain, whilst voluntary in most of the rest of Europe (including the UK). It is required specifically on the unit sales of packaging where it is visible to the consumer.

Green dot logo
The green dot logo does not necessarily mean the packaging is recyclable or recycled, but that the producer has financially contributed to recycling schemes

Taken from PRO Europe’s guidelines for use:

“The Green Dot” trademark is an internationally protected and well-known symbol. These guidelines are intended to help companies using “The Green Dot” on their packaging – based on a valid license agreement with an authorized national packaging recovery organization – to use the symbol in the correct manner.  

Definition: Any reference to “The Green Dot” trademark on packaging, must comply fully with the following definition. This definition follows from the trademark statute and is an essential part of license agreements between PRO EUROPE – Packaging Recovery Organisation Europe as the general licensee of the “The Green Dot” trademark rights on the one hand and the national PRO Europe member systems on the other hand.  

“The Green Dot” trademark on packaging means that for such packaging, a financial contribution has been paid to a national packaging recovery company that has been set up in accordance with the principles defined in European Directive No. 94/62 and the corresponding national law.

For further information and details, please visit the PRO Europe website by clicking here.

Corrugated Recycles Logo

Developed by the International Corrugated Case Association, the Corrugated Recycles symbol can be used internationally to both promote the recycling of corrugated and highlight that is recyclable.

The symbol can be used freely (there is no cost or registration process, unlike the Green Dot), providing there are no national or local laws prohibiting its use.

It is however important to point out that putting the symbol on a corrugated container does not indicate that the packaging is manufactured from recycled material, but rather means that the pack could (and should) be recycled.

Recycling symbols on packaging
The corrugated recycles logo is free to use, making it one of the more popular recycling symbols on packaging manufactured from cardboard

This makes it a great recycling symbol to include on your corrugated packaging to remind your customers of their responsibility, and promote the environmental awareness of your own business.

Further information can be found by visiting the International Corrugated Case Association website here.

FSC

The FSC’s “Tick tree” recycling symbol is used to signify that products are certified under the Forest Stewardship Council system.

What this means in practice, is that paper, card and wood products are produced from well managed forests.

The FSC is a global, not for profit organisation promoting responsible forest management throughout the world. It enables both businesses and consumers to make an informed choice about the products they buy that originate from forests.

The vast majority of the corrugated cardboard that GWP Group use in manufacturing your packaging (manufactured by Corrboard) is FSC approved (registration can be viewed here: https://info.fsc.org/certificate.php).

Please speak with a GWP sales advisor if you are interested in using this symbol on your packaging.

For further information on the FSC, please watch the video below, or visit their website at https://www.fsc-uk.org/en-uk/

Compostable (Seedling)

The “Seedling” logo is a registered trademark of European Bioplastics, so suitable permissions / licensing would be required if you were you to use this recycling symbol on your packaging.

Use of it indicates packaging / products are certified industrially compostable according to the European standard EN 13432. Successfully certified products will fully biodegrade in an industrial composting plant under controlled conditions such as temperature, moisture and time frame – leaving nothing behind but water, biomass and CO2

For further information, please visit the European Bioplastics website here, or view the usage guidelines here.

OK Compost

Similar to the Seedling logo, the OK Compost packaging recycling symbols indicates that the pack is compostable in an industrial composting unit.

The use of the symbol requires testing / compliance with EN 13432: 2000, which means any product featuring the OK Compost mark is also in accordance with the EU packaging Directive ( 94/62/EEC).

Effectively, this marking system guarantees that the certified product can be composted in an industrial composting facility.

OK Compost (Home)

As the general OK Compost symbol only applies to industrial composting (with controlled levels of heat etc.), the “Home” version was created to indicate any packaging or product that would also be compostable in domestic setups.

Details of both the industrial and domestic logos, and required accreditation, can be found by clicking here.

GWP Packaging Waste Regulations Guide

Download: Checklist to Ensure You...

…comply with the Packaging Waste Regulations. See if they affect your business, and what to do if you have a legal obligation. Click below to download your copy now.

Widely Recycled

In essence, this packaging recycling symbol is used to indicate that more than 75% of local authorities in the UK will collect the packaging / material for recycling.

This therefore makes it an option to include on corrugated cardboard packaging, and is particularly relevant to any packs that will be used / handled by end users (as opposed to within a supply chain).

RESY

In Germany a paper and board recycling scheme called RESY exists. RESY is a consortium including the union of paper producers, the union of cardboard producers and a recycling and reverse logistics specialist Vfw.

The RESY (GmbH) licensed symbol is for consolidation of transit packaging manufactured from corrugated cardboard only. It’s use is widespread in Germany, although frequently used in the UK as well.

It should be used in combination with the manufacturers / importers identification number, although it is not required by law under jurisdiction.

It does however guarantee that packaging is recyclable and will be accepted by paper and cardboard recyclers

NAPM Recycled

The final logo was originally created by the National Association of Paper Merchants, which was wound up in 2015.

However, the mark is still occasionally referenced, and  indicates that a specific paper or board is made from a minimum of 75% genuine waste paper and / or board fibre, no part of which should contain mill produced waste fibre.

Related Articles...

Free Quote / Advice.

Get a quick, free, no obligation quote or impartial advice by completing the form below.




For full details on how GWP will treat your data, please view our Privacy Policy. Your information will not be shared with any third party.

Contact.

Free, no obligation advice…

Click below to discuss your upcoming requirements, difficulties you are facing or to simply get advice from one of our experts.

In Summary.

Choosing the right packaging recycling labels

With a surprisingly large number of packaging recycling symbols becoming ever more prevalent, it is important to select the right one for use on your corrugated transit cartons or retail packaging.

Should you have any questions regarding the best option for your specific application, need help with a packaging reduction project, or are interested in GWP’s own environmental initiatives, please get in touch.

Jay Daggar, Sales Manager at GWP Packaging

About the Author: Jay Daggar

Sales Manager | GWP Packaging

Jay initially joined GWP Packaging in mid-2008 before becoming Sales Manager in 2011, meaning he has worked for GWP for over 10 years. [Read full bio…]

Phone GWP Group

01793 754 444

Mon – Fri 08.30 – 17.00

Email GWP Group

info@gwp.co.uk

Email a packaging expert

Still not sure of which packaging recycling symbols you should be using? Then please don't hesitate to get in touch...

GWP Group - Innovators in Protective Packaging
Company Info:

© Copyright 2006-2019 GWP Group
Unit 20 Chelworth Park, Cricklade, Swindon, SN6 6HE, GB | TEL: 01793 754 444 | EMAIL: info@gwp.co.uk
Company No. 05459368 | VAT No. GB535876017 | Business hours:
Further Information:
Packaging Design & Manufacture | Review Us | Page Last Updated: | Local Time: (GMT)
×