Quick Tips

Let’s break it down: Packaging Symbols

What does it all mean?

There are many variations to indicate the nature and recyclability of a product, and most follow a standardized layout. Three arrows in a triangular shape (or the Mobius loop, originally designed by a college student, Gary Anderson, in 1970 to denote reduce, reuse, recycle). The variable design will dictate: the component material or materials (plastic, metal, glass, paper), whether that material or some percentage of it was recycled, instructions on separating components, a resin identification code (RIC) to differentiate plastic grade, a company’s standpoint on recycled products (the illusive Green Dot), disposal cautions, and compostability.

The classic Mobius loop

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

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 

The simplified Mobius loop with RIC numbers 1-7 

to classify type (weight/grade/composition) of plastics. When you see this symbol, it does not always mean that the plastic can be recycled in your local area. It is merely an identification aidPlasticFilmRecycling will help you find a location to drop your plastic bags and wraps. Check Earth911 to learn which numbers are accepted curbside in your area and find drop-off locations for those not accepted curbside.

The Green Dot symbol (also seen as black/grey)

is two arrows looping into one another, in yin-yang fashion, to denote a company’s character toward recycling. In other words, the green dot can be found on packaging even if the product cannot be recycled nor is made from recycled products. It just means the company contributed resources towards package recycling at some point.

The compostable symbol

means the product safely breaks down into dirt. Note: a biodegradable symbol does not mean the same thing (that just means it will break down into very small pieces).

The wheeled bin symbol

indicates the product cannot go in a normal waste or recycling bin, most likely because it is electrical or hazardous.


The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo

identifies the product as wood-based from well-managed forests in accordance with FSC rules and regulations.

The Tidy Man symbol

is not directly related to recycling, but does remind the consumer to dispose the item in a responsible manner in a designated container.

Thanks for reading! Utilize the Discussion Board to pose questions/answers on your local recycling regulations and general symbol classification.