Feb 28, 2014

What Recycle Symbols Mean

As we approach that time of year when thoughts turn to Spring cleaning, it is probably a good idea to also think about what we might recycle. The original recycling symbol was designed in 1970 by Gary Anderson, a senior at the University of Southern California at Los Angeles. It was submitted to the International Design Conference as part of a nationwide contest for high school and college students sponsored by the Container Corporation of America.

The symbols below show the various types of materials. If there is an R in front of the letters, that means it was already recycled. The numbers range from 1 to 7, defining which type of material it is.

Type 1 PolyEthylene TErephthalate is used for pop bottles. Type 2 High-Density PolyEthylene is used for milk and detergent bottles. Twenty-seven percent of type 1 is recycled, including 41 percent of plastic pop bottles. About 7 percent of type 2 plastic recycled.

Type 3 is used on window cleaner bottles, cooking oil bottles, detergent bottles, shampoo bottles, clear food packaging, wire and cable jackets, medical tubing, and in other household products and building materials, particularly siding, piping, and windows

Recycling types 3 through 7 are rare, because using virgin material is cheaper. Recycling rates for these materials are about 1-2 percent.

The recycling rate for all plastic packaging is about 4.5 percent, compared with 53 percent for aluminum.

 - A container or package, marked with this symbol above was manufactured with at least some materials that have been recycled. Generally, additional information is conveyed with the symbol such as, 'Printed on recycled paper'.

There is a symbol for glass, but usually all glass is recyclable. There are many other symbols used for various materials, and different symbols in different countries. They are all meant to make consumers aware of recycling, even if many of the products are not recycled.