recycling symbols

The world is becoming an increasingly eco-conscious place and more people are eager to play their part by minimising waste, and recycling where possible.

But there’s a catch – according to Recycle Week, 80% of UK households are still unclear on how to recycle effectively, despite businesses’ efforts to include recycling symbols on packaged products.

However, there are a large number of these symbols that consumers come across daily, and many of these are often misunderstood. Aspiring recyclers may well be taking a quick glance at the green dots and little triangle of arrows featured on their items, before confidently throwing them away feeling optimistic that they’ve played their part in the fight against excess waste.

The truth is these symbols are surprisingly more complex and don’t just classify items as recyclable or not. Here’s a quick breakdown to help make sense of the ones you’re likely to come across on your cardboard packaging!


Widely Recycled

Widely-recycledLet’s begin with a relatively straightforward one – this symbol is found on packaging that is collected by 75% (or more) of local authorities across the UK, including cardboard!

The Tidyman

The TidymanYou’d be forgiven for thinking this little fellow is a recycling symbol – it’s not! The Tidyman is trademarked by the charity Keep Britain Tidy and is used on packaging as a reminder to the consumer not to litter.

Mobius Loop

Mobius LoopMade up of three arrows (sometimes green, sometimes black) forming a three-dimensional triangle, the Mobius Loop is another recognisable yet enigmatic symbol that could do with some interpretation! Its presence on a package means the brand owner is confident it can be recycled, but with no guarantee that all recycling centres will accept it.

Green Dot

green dotOr ‘Der Grüner Punkt’, if we want to use its original name. While the symbol is often found on packaging in the UK, it only has any legal meaning in Germany. Made up of two green arrows twisting into a circular shape, the Green Dot’s presence on a package means the manufacturer has made a financial contribution towards recycling schemes, therefore the product can be recycled.

As you can see, the meaning behind these symbols is more complex than you might initially imagine. What’s more, these are just four examples of the many variations that are out there!

With so many of these symbols becoming ever more prevalent, it’s worth familiarising yourself with the most common ones to ensure you’re recycling your discarded carboard and assorted packaging adhering to the intended guidelines.

If you have any questions about the meaning of recycling symbols, please do get in touch via our Instagram page (@beyondtheboxuk)!