What the recycling symbol really means

Recycling can be tricky to understand, especially if you’re just starting your sustainability journey. Just learning about recycling may seem like a small step, but it makes a big difference in ensuring you’re recycling effectively! Don’t worry; we’re here to help you understand what can and can’t be recycled by your local recycling service and how you can use TerraCycle as a solution to everything that isn’t accepted by your local council.

When you see this symbol, you may immediately think the item is recyclable, but that isn’t necessarily the case. This symbol with three arrows pointing to one another is called the “chasing arrows” or sometimes a “Mobius loop.” It’s been the focus of a lot of attention recently, so here’s a quick overview of what it is and isn’t. 

What the chasing arrows symbol means

The chasing arrows symbol with a number in the middle is a resin identification code. It’s used on plastic packaging to identify the resin the item is made of. Here’s a breakdown of which code is for which type of plastic

You may have also seen the symbol with a percentage inside. In this case, the percentage indicates how much recyclable material is in the item. 

What the symbol doesn’t mean

The chasing arrows symbol does not mean you can put the product in your recycling bin. It all depends on what’s accepted by your local recycling service. Most programmes accept #1 and #2 plastics, glass, aluminium and cardboard.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for people to put their rubbish in their recycling bin just because they see the recycling symbol. This well-intentioned “wishcycling” can contaminate the stream of recyclable material and does more harm than good.

How can this information help you in your sustainability journey?

Now that you know what the recycling symbol means, check with your local council to see what items they accept. Don’t forget to share this information with your neighbours so you can all recycle properly!

And for the items that you can’t put in your recycling bin, there’s TerraCycle. You might have seen the TerraCycle logo on some of your favourite products. It serves to indicate that you can recycle them through our free recycling programmes

If we don’t have a free recycling programme for what you’re looking for, check out our Zero Waste Boxes and together let’s #RecycleEverything.

2 thoughts on “What the recycling symbol really means

  1. Plastic wrapping confuses me terribly eg 04 where do I put it?
    Plastic meat and cheese trays that are not teracycle and do not have a arrow triangle. Do they go for incineration?


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