Recycling Symbols Explained - Shorebox

All Recycling Symbols Explained

It’s important that we recycle correctly, but confusing and ambiguous recycling symbols on product packaging don’t exactly make it easy. 

The consequences of recycling the wrong material can lead to immense amounts of waste. Sometimes entire lorries of material are sent to landfill or incineration instead, as it can be too costly for recycling facilities to fix mistakes.

Read more: The problem with plastic recycling

Understanding recycling symbols, and knowing what your local council collects, are crucial to making sure you manage your waste properly. So let’s get started!

Read next: Plastic symbols explained


Widely recycled

Whoopie — the chances are you can recycle this item. This symbol is used for packaging that is collected by 75% or more councils in the UK.



Widely recycled at recycling centres

Although your item is recyclable, you can’t put it in your home recycling bin. You’ll need to take it to a local recycling centre. An example of this is a metal paint can.



Widely recycled at recycling points

You might be able to recycle this item at home, but you’ll need to check. Otherwise, you’ll have to take it to a recycling point. An example of this is Tetra Pak cartons. 

By the way, recycling centres and recycling points are the same thing. The recycling symbols like to keep us on our toes.



Recycle with bags at larger stores

A lot of plastic can’t be recycled at home, but can be at some large supermarkets. You can take plastic cereal bags, kitchen roll wraps, bread bags, multipack shrink wrap, magazine wraps, and more, to be recycled. 



Check locally

This label is applied to packaging that is collected by 20 – 75% of councils, so it’s best to check if yours does before you recycle it.



Not yet recycled

Boo, this item either can’t be recycled anywhere, or is only collected by less than 20% of councils.



The Green Dot

This symbol signifies that the producer of the item has made a financial contribution towards recovering and recycling it. It doesn’t give any indication as to whether your council recycles it, or even if it’s recycled in the UK. 

Green Dot - Recycling Symbols Explained - Shorebox


Mobius Loop

This indicates that the item is capable of being recycled — somewhere. But that ‘somewhere’ may not even be in the UK. Like the Green Dot, this symbol doesn’t give much away. 

Mobius Loop - Recycling Symbols Explained - Shorebox



This symbol encourages you to recycle your glass container. Dispose of glass via a bottle bank or kerbside collection.



Recyclable aluminium

Your product is made from recyclable aluminium.  

All councils collect food and drink cans from households, and nearly all collect aerosols and food trays. Find out how to recycle aluminium properly. 

Unlike plastic, aluminium is infinitely recyclable. You go, Aluminium.



Recyclable steel

Your product is made of steel, which is also infinitely recyclable. Double check if your steel item is collected via household collection. 




This fellow is reminding you to be a good citizen and not litter. He was created by Keep Britain Tidy back in the 1960s. 



Electrical waste

This indicates that your electrical item can be recycled — and should not be put in the general waste. 

In landfill, harmful chemicals can leach from electrical waste and enter water systems, causing pollution and death to marine life.




Your product can be industrially composted. This isn’t the same as home composting (spoiler: that’s the next symbol). An example of this would be compostable plastic. 

Councils don’t provide a collection scheme for industrial composting, so at the moment it’s very difficult to dispose of these materials correctly in the UK.



Home composting

This indicates the product is suitable to be composted at home. Find out how to compost.



Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

This identifies that your paper, card, or wood-based product comes from well managed forests. These forests are independently certified by FSC. 


The bottom line is, the only way of knowing if you can recycle your item is to know what your local council collects. Because every council collects different things, recycling symbols can’t be relied on. Once you’ve checked, you could print the information out and keep it near your bin or on your fridge to get your household onboard (and settle some recycling disagreements!). 

Recycling isn’t enough

If you can, it’s best to opt for reusable items. Avoiding waste — even if it’s recyclable — is always best. Reusing saves resources, energy, and, well, recycling isn’t exactly a perfect process

But when that’s not an option, recycling correctly is crucial. So your new found knowledge of recycling is bound to come in handy!

Next up, find out what those confusing plastic symbols mean (they actually tell you really important information about your plastic item!).

Oh hello! Just a quick note to say, we’re an eco-friendly subscription box helping our subscribers reduce plastic waste step-by-step. If that sounds exciting, enjoy 10% off your first box today with the code FIRSTBOX. That’s all for now, cheerio.

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