Ensuring your company is environmentally responsible not only benefits the planet, but it’s important to your customers too. Even if it isn’t currently a priority for your business, you can be sure it is for your customers, who’ll factor it in when choosing their supplier.
We’ve been speaking with experts in the packaging industry (such as John Kirkby), and we’ve learnt that understanding which materials can be recycled is one of the first challenges that companies face when trying to be more environmentally responsible.
To help you better understand what can be recycled and where to recycle it, we’ve listed the most common recycling symbols below with guidance and examples, which should help you and your business on your first steps to going green.
General Recycling Symbols
‘Please recycle now’
The ‘Please recycle now’ symbol is a call to action; it says that the environment will be harmed if this product has to be destroyed or left in landfill, as per normal disposal.
This symbol is not informative, but encourages the user to recycle.
Similar to the ‘Please recycle now’ symbol, the Mobius Loopis an alert to the user that this product can be recycled, rather than offering any specific information. The symbol was created in the late 1970’s by American Gary Anderson, and is now universally recognised as the generic symbol for recycling.
When a pack has more than one form of material.
Products such as microwaveable meals and packaging with built in protection require different materials for transit and end use. Some of these materials may be recycleable and others aren’t. A symbol such as this one (pictured left) informs the user which materials can be recycled, and that they need to separated before recycling.
If your product has this symbol, it needs to be recycled with other glass. Some councils and recycling services will provide a container that sits inside your recycling bin in order for you to recycle glass. If this doesn’t apply to your area, products with this symbol should be taken and sorted into bottle banks.
The following symbols are commonly found on bottles containing drinks, soaps and shampoos as well as food packaging. They’re usually located on the label alongside the instructions for use.
This symbol means the product is made from Polyethylene Terephalate. It is a very common form of plastic which is used to contain products such as fizzy drinks, cooking oils and water. Products with this symbol can be recycled in recycling bins.
This symbol means the product is made from High Density Polyethylene. HDPE is commonly used for milk bottles, washing up liquids and shower gels. Again, this plastic can be placed in most recycling bins.
Polyvinyl Chloride is a form of plastic which is no longer very common. Products with this symbol on can still be recycled in most recycling bins, but don’t expect to find too many bottles made of this material.
Low Density Polyeythlene plastic is commonly used to wrap meat or vegetables. Because of the mixture of materials and chance for contamination, these plastics are not widely recycled. They should be disposed of in general waste containers.
Polypropylene plastic is often used in the food industry and like LDPE, is not widely recycled in the UK. Products with this symbol should be deposited in general waste containers.
Polystyrene is most commonly used as protection or loose fill for products in transit. This form of plastic is rarely recyclable in the UK and should be placed in general waste.
Other materials includes all other resins and multi-material plastics. Because of the use of different materials, plastics with this symbol on should be placed in general waste.
This symbol indicates a product is made from aluminium. Although most aluminium, including cans and foil is recyclable, please remember the following: 1) do not recycle if it has been contaminated by food produce and 2) Some recycling plants are not equipped to recycle foil. Please check with your local council before recycling.
Although not technically a recycling symbol, the compostable symbol is important nonetheless. If a product has this symbol on it, it means that not only will the item biodegrade but it will also offer nutrients and benefits to the soil around it.
If you have any doubts about whether or not you can recycle a product, it is always best to check the recycling and reuse guide of your local council; you can find the contact details for your council online. Some councils will have better facilities and processes than others and are therefore able to recycle different materials.
If you have any questions about our commitment to the environment, please get in touch with one of our expert team on 0800 542 44 28, or take a look at our environmental policy. We also have a large range of eco-friendly packaging products available to buy on our website.