can I recycle that? Symbols explained



...and there’s no more recycling stress!

Recycling in the UK is a bit rubbish. 

With successful recycling rates in England and Scotland at less than 50% it’s high time we understood what the recycling symbols on our packaging actually mean. 

loops, triangles, numbers, arrows and letters…

They are all there to make it easy to know what to do with a piece of packaging. 

BUT they can be confusing, especially when packaging can display several logos at once.

So, this complete guide will tell you all you need to know about the UK’s most common recycling instructions. 

And when you know the secrets of the symbols you’ll also know how to dispose of your packaging, increase your recycling rates and NOT contaminate your recycling with stuff that shouldn't be there.

general recycling labels. 

This symbol means the pack is collected by at least 75% of UK local authorities. It’s often accompanied by the word “RINSE” to make sure you are cleaning it before popping anything into the recycling bin.

These 2 symbols show packs can be recycled BUT must be cleaned first and any lids replaced. The RINSE instruction is often on yoghurt pots and the RINSE, LID ON instruction is mostly on bottles. Replacing the lids on bottles stops them falling through the holes at sorting facilities and not being recycled.

This symbol confirms the packaging can be recycled BUT, just because something can be recycled in theory, doesn’t mean it will be accepted by your local authority sadly.

This means the packaging is collected by less than half our local authorities. It doesn’t mean it won’t be accepted or can’t be recycled though… so check with your council.

Although you can’t recycle this packaging in your kerbside collection, it can be taken to recycling points at supermarkets. The symbol is often on bread bags.

A double symbol like this means you must split the packaging into its individual parts. For example, taking a non-recyclable sleeve off a bottle. The lidded bottle CAN be recycled but only once the sleeve has been removed and placed in your waste bin. 

beware the green dot…

The Green Dot symbol actually has a negative impact on the UK’s recycling levels and encourages contamination. This is because the symbol does NOT automatically mean the packaging is recyclable. It has no environmental or recycling meaning and unfortunately people wrongly think it DOES.⁠

It simply means a company has made a financial contribution towards recycling efforts. ⁠If all you can see on your packaging is this symbol - you can’t recycle the pack.

types of recyclable materials.

This packaging is aluminium so recycle with other aluminium such as your cans.

This packaging is made from glass and can be recycled with your glass collection or in a bottle bank (split into different colours).

The Forest Stewardship Council mark (that you’ll find on all smol packaging) tells you the paper, card or wooden packaging has come from sustainably managed forests. Paper and card can be recycled in your kerbside collections.

This symbol is used for electricals and means you should not put them in your household waste bin but take them to be recycled by electrical retailers or at a recycling centre. 

the 7 plastic resin codes.

This packaging is high density polyethylene and widely recycled. It’s used for soft drink bottles, the 1 PETE (polyethylene terephthalate) symbol means the plastic is widely recycled.

It’s the plastic we use for all our bottles-for-life (although ours are also made from plastic that’s already been recycled at least once… and you won’t need to put it in the recycling bin ever… it’s designed to be refilled)!

2 HDPE often found on cleaning product bottles.

3PVC/V packaging is made from polyvinyl chloride and it’s NOT easily recycled. You’ll mostly find it on food wrapping.

4 LDPE is a low-density polyethylene and can be recycled at specialist points. You’ll most likely find it on squeezy bottles.

5 PP means the packaging is polypropylene. It’s widely recycled and often used for medicine bottles.

6 PS shows the pack is polystyrene. It is NOT easy to recycle and is often used for disposable plates and cups or food packaging. 

7 OTHER indicates a plastic that doesn’t fall into the other 6 categories. It can be recycled at specialist points and you’ll mostly spot it on crisp packets.

don’t forget the compostable stuff. 

This means the packaging is industrially compostable to meet European standard EN 13432/14955 so DON”T pop it in your home compost and DON’T recycle this with normal packaging because it is designed to break down and could contaminate the rest of the recycling.

You can compost this packaging from the comfort of your own home. Do NOT recycle this with your plastic recycling as again, it could contaminate the rest of the material if it breaks down. 

Remember, there’s a whole world of easily recyclable packaging with smol cleaning products so if you haven’t dipped your toes in yet… grab yourself a home bundle with an amazing discount today!