Recycling symbols – do you know what they mean?

I am lucky enough to have an amazing bunch of friends from my time at Uni, and being avid marine life lovers it is safe to say we are all on the same page when it comes to plastic. One of the great things about having friends who are on the same page as you is that you get to discuss ideas and solutions that you might not have known about on your own.

Having just got back from holiday with said wonderful friends, I am now looking to finish up the last of my toothpaste before trying out a tablet toothpaste alternative. One of my friends swears by it, says it makes her teeth look whiter than with an ordinary toothpaste and best of all, it come in a recyclable plastic bottle. Not plastic free – but as there are few other alternatives (aside from homemade), I am going to give it a go. It is available from the good old high street shop Lush, so I don;t even have to faff about with online shopping and the packaging horrors that go with it.

What has this got to do with the recycling symbols you might ask?

Well, I was just looking at my toothpaste tube and I noticed a symbol on it that you have probably seen a million times over. The one with the black and white arrows in a circle…

the green dot (2)

The culprit!

Knowing that my tube of toothpaste is not recyclable, I found myself a little confused. Why is there a symbol that is so readily associated with recycling on the side of a container that cannot be recycled?

I asked my husband what he thought the symbol meant, after all maybe it was just me. After staring at me for some time with a worried look of ‘what kind of trick question is this?’ he admitted the same thing as me, that he thought it meant it was either recyclable, or made from recycled materials.

So I did some digging and here is what I found out…

It has nothing to do with the individual items recycling status, past or future.

I will say that again…NOTHING to do with its recycling status *jaw drop*

It is known as ‘The Green Dot’ (despite usually being black and white) and is in fact just a symbol used to signify that the company has contributed financially to a plastic recovery and recycling scheme that runs in some European Countries (not the UK).

Considering both myself and my husband are keen on reducing plastic waste and are actively educating ourselves on this topic, I find it worrying that we could have drawn such an incorrect conclusion. Surely this means that the same conclusions will be being drawn all over the UK, especially as the scheme is not run here and therefore not recognised by the public.

For the sake of clarity then, this symbol does not mean the product you are looking at is in any way recyclable, or made from recycled materials…

the green dot


Here are a few symbols on the other hand, that do…


mobius loop

Mobius Loop

The object is capable of being recycled, not necessarily in all recycling collection systems so make sure to check!

Widely recycled

WidelyΒ Recycled

This item is collected in over 75% of UK local authorities.

check locally

Check Locally

This item is collected in 20 – 75% of UK local authorities.

In researching the above I found a great website called recyclenow which not only explains the various symbols we see on our packaging (there are a lot more than those I have listed here), but also makes it easy for you to access information regarding what your local authority can recycle. All you need is you postcode and your good to go! It also lists the most local collection points for items you may not be able to place in your household recycling, for example polystyrene.





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