Recycling Symbols and Their Meaning - Summary and Photos

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Environmental education today is booming and a large number of activities are developed to bring it closer to citizens, so that they have knowledge of actions as basic as recycling. Although sometimes we think that we do it well and we do not need to receive more information about it, surely you have ever had some waste that you have not known in which container to deposit or have had some doubts about recycling.

In this recycling guide of Green Ecologist we will know all the recycling symbols and their meaning, so you can become a professional recycling.

Recycling symbol of the three arrows

It is in 1970 when the first recycling symbol and it arises as a result of a design contest. The design so far used to indicate recycling shows three arrows, each of them refers to an activity of the recycling process:

  1. The materials used are collected.
  2. The recycling activity is carried out in recycling plants.
  3. The recycled product returns to the market.

Recycling symbols: two arrows

Maybe this is the recycling symbol that we see most often on packaging. Is about two rounded arrows that come together in a circle. This symbol is marked by the European Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive, which makes companies responsible for recycling their products. In Spain Ecoembes and Ecovidrio help production companies to manage paper, plastic and glass waste.

Recycling symbol: Tidyman

Waste should not only be managed by companies or management companies, it is also the responsibility of citizens. There is waste that we generate when we are away from home and throwing it on the ground, in rivers, lakes, etc., is a lack of civility and a great irresponsibility with the environment and, in the end, with ourselves. With the symbol of the Tidyman, a person throwing garbage in a bin or container, It is intended that people are also responsible and deposit their waste in the corresponding places, whether they are bins or special containers.

Plastic recycling symbols

There are different plastic containers depending on their composition, each of them is used to package different products. There are 7 types of plastics that can be differentiated by the plastic recycling symbol, three arrows in a triangle with a number in the center.

  1. Pet or PETE (Polyethylene Terephthalate): This symbol is used for both beverages and food containers.
  2. HDPE (High Density Polyethylene): if you take a look at the cleaning products in your home, you will find this symbol on their packaging.
  3. V or PVC (Vinyl or Polyvinyl Chloride): these are highly resistant plastics, used for hygiene products, construction materials, pipes, etc …
  4. LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene): is a type of plastic used for furniture, freezer bags … They are characterized by being transparent and resistant.
  5. PP (Polypropylene): heat resistant plastics, mostly used for medical or laboratory packaging.
  6. PS (Polystyrene): perhaps the most damaging of all since it is used in single-use utensils.
  7. OTHER in this category are included those that are difficult or practically impossible to recycle like DVD or MP3.

We recommend that you learn more about it in these other articles on Which plastics are recycled and which are not and How to recycle plastic at home.

Glass recycling symbol

Glass bottles also have their corresponding symbol, with respect to the containers to be thrown in the Glass container we must be especially careful, since sometimes glass containers are deposited. Glass and glass are not the same: if we throw the glass into the glass container, in the recycling process the composition of the new containers that are generated can be altered. If you did not know, the glass that is collected from green containers, it is crushed until obtaining its mineral of origin, silica, and from this the new containers are made. Here you can see some of the glass recycling symbols, although sometimes the recycling symbol with two or three arrows may simply appear.

In this other post we talk more about How to recycle glass.

Metal recycling symbols

Like plastic, metals also have their own recycling symbols. Aluminum and steel are examples of recyclable metals in which you can see the metal recycling symbols, like the ones in the image below.

To learn more about recyclable metals, we explain everything about the Importance of metal recycling here.

E-waste recycling and its symbols

This type of waste cannot be deposited in any container. They must be lead to clean points so that they carry out a correct management. The problem with these residues is that if they are not taken to the clean points, they generate a strong impact on the environment. If you think a bit, you may get an image of how they take electronic devices out of rivers, or of going for a walk through the countryside and finding them lying around.

In the case of electronic or technological waste, you will see that in some of the pieces there is the symbol of plastic recycling where appropriate, elsewhere there may be the symbol of the metal recycling, etc., since it is in pieces and to throw it away you would have to disassemble it and recycle these pieces separately. On the other hand, there are pieces of electronic products, or whole products, that cannot be recycled in the containers as we indicated and must go to the clean point.

We explain more about what to do with technological or electronic waste in this other post by Ecologist Verde and here we talk about what a clean or green point is and what it is for.

Symbols of medicine recycling: the SIGRE point

Once expired medicines are dangerous to health, when they expire they must receive their corresponding treatment. In addition to being dangerous for humans, if we dispose of them down the drain, they will end up contaminating the waters since they are not detected in the water treatment plant. In the case of Spain, for recycle medicines you have to take them to SIGRE point of medicines which, normally, is in pharmacies or medical centers. In these places you will find containers with the symbol of a cross and a round green arrow.

To further expand your knowledge about recycling, we recommend this Green Ecologist's recycling guide in which you will find many tips on How to recycle garbage at home.

If you want to read more articles similar to Recycling symbols and their meaning, we recommend that you enter our Recycling and waste management category.

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