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Recycling Symbols Explained

  • 3 min read

 Recycling Symbols

You are not alone if you find recycling labels confusing. Recycling labels, allegedly designed to make the process easier, are surprisingly deceptive. Sometimes it feels like companies are playing mind games by testing our recycling knowledge. To make matters worse, new categories of plastics, such as bioplastics, made from renewable materials add to the confusion. Do you know which bin they should go in? We are breaking it down for you in the hope to make it a little less of an enigma. 

Here's our guide to plastic recycling symbols:

The Green Recycling Dot 

green dot recycling label This label is fairly meaningless as it has no bearing on whether the packaging can be recycled or not. It only means that the producer has made "a financial contribution" towards the recovery and recycling of packaging. A noble effort but is it placed on the packaging to earn brownie points? We believe this sign should not be placed on any packaging as it is deceptively similar to recycling labels, but doesn't add any value. 




The Mobius Loop



mobius loop recycling label

This commonly used symbol means that the packaging is capable of being recycled but does not necessarily make it obvious how to recycle it or even if it will be accepted by waste collection services. A number (1-7) when used inside the Mobius Loop, refers the resin code of the type of plastic used. 


Not yet recycled


We find this information quite useful on the packaging as it makes it easy for us to ditch the product altogether. You will find this on flexible pouches, think kids squeezy meals, household cleaning products refill pouches etc. Plastic pouches are not easily recycled and will not be accepted by most recycling facilities. If you find yourself using one, it goes into the rubbish bin, not the recycling bin. 


Plastic Recycling Numbers:

This is where decoding plastic recycling codes gets fun. A simple rule of thumb is that a lower number means the material is more likely to be accepted for recycling. The higher the number, it is less likely to be recycled, particularly category 7.


plastic recycling symbols infographic

Things to remember

  • Recycling symbols are only guidelines. You need to still check with your local waste collection service to make sure what type of waste is accepted. 

  • Plastic is a durable material that can live on for over 500 years. However, it loses much of its quality with recycling. That means it is most likely down-cycled, which is another word for delaying its fate until it gets permanently banished in the landfill.

  • Black plastics are notoriously hard to recycle. You may have heard most supermarkets are ditching black plastics in food packaging. Avoid when you can.

  • Refill is the new recycle. With refill stores popping up all over, it is surprisingly easy to use your refillable containers for an unpackaged weekly grocery shop. 

At Spruce, we are committed to avoiding plastic packaging where possible. Our reusable bottles can be refilled endlessly and take the guesswork out of recycling. With our concentrated cleaning refills, we have gone one step further, so you don't have to go to a zero-waste refill store for your cleaning needs. Get your refills delivered to your home. Simply add the concentrated refill, add tap water and get ready to clean.  

 Check out our plastic free cleaning products range.
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