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Everything You Need To Know About The Recycling Logo



Where did the recycling logo come from - and what does it mean? As more business owners and consumers alike are focused on environmental sustainability, there has been a greater focus on recycling initiatives in the last few years. You may know about residential recycling, paper recycling, industrial recycling, and food waste recycling. However, how much do you know about the recycling logo itself? Or, do you know what those little numbers mean located within the recycling logo on your plastic (resin) containers and products? This article will take you through the history of the recycling logo, how to identify the numbers within the logo, and more! To learn more about recycling and environmental services, contact the experts at Panda today! 






Recycling Logo History - Where Does It Come From and What Does it Mean?




It is likely you have seen the recycling logo, and one of its many variations, hundreds or even thousands of times. It has become a staple in our lives - found on dozens of products in your home, in the store, used in print and the media, and is often used to represent environmental sustainability. You may see it at work or may even produce products that have the symbol on them. But where did this logo come from? How long has it been around for?


Well, the logo was actually designed in 1970, by a 23-year-old man named Gary Anderson. Anderson entered a design contest held by the Container Corporation of America. The contest asked participants to design a logo to be used for recycled paper. Anderson entered the competition, even though he had no prior design experience, and won! Business Insider quotes Anderson, who said: 


'"It didn't take me long to come up with my design: a day or two. I almost hate to admit that now," writes Anderson.  But I'd already done a presentation on recycling waste water and I'd come up with a graphic that described the flow of water: from reservoirs through to consumption, so I already had arrows and arcs and angles in my mind."'


Although at the time it is likely Gary Anderson would have no idea how prominent his design would become. However, once his design was chosen as the winning logo, it was entered into the public domain. After that, the logo quickly took off and soon became an established symbol in our society. 


Image source: Business Insider



What Does It Mean?


Although most people understand that the recycling logo has something to do with recycling, not everyone knows exactly what it means. The recycling logo that you see most often (the three arrows making a triangle) is used to indicate that a product has the ability to be recycled. It does not indicate that product has been recycled, or even that it will be accepted at any recycling plant. It simply means that all or some of the materials used to create the product can be recycled. 


Another common symbol you will often see alongside the classic recycling symbol is a little number. That number is used to identify what type of plastic the product was made from. These numbers are called "SPI Codes" or "SPI Resin Identification Codes." There are 7 different codes in total. For example, the recycling symbol with a "1" in the middle indicates that the product was made from Polyethylene Terephthalate. We'll learn more about the resin identification codes below!




Resin Identification Codes



Example of an SPI code on the bottom of a plastic food container 


When you look on the bottom of many plastic items, such as food containers, coffee cups, food bottles, and other household items, you will likely find the little recycling symbol along with a number in the centre. This is usually accompanied by letters beneath the logo. In the example above, we see the recycling symbol, a "5" in the centre, and "PP" underneath. What does this mean? #5 means the plastic is made from Polypropylene, or "PP" for short. Check out the quick video below to learn more about each number. You can also learn more about what you can recycle in Ontario by municipality here




If you aren't sure what the number code means on the bottom of your plastic products, check out our simple listing below. 


Resin codes - symbols; Image source:



1 - Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE or PET)

2 - High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)

3 - Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

4 - Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE)

5 - Polypropylene (PP)

6 - Polystyrene (PS)

7 - Other plastics (Other) - May include nylon, fibreglass, acrylic, and more 


To learn more about the SPI code, click here



Logo Variations





Source - The "Green Dot"



Aluminum Recycling Symbol



Traditional Recycling Logo


The "Tidyman" logo



As you can see from the images above, there are many variations to the recycling logo. For example, the "Green Dot" recycling symbol is used in many European countries instead of the traditional arrow logo that many of us in Canada are used to. For some specific recyclable items, there are specific and unique symbols, such as the aluminum symbol.


There is also the well-known "Tidyman" logo. This logo, however, is often misunderstood. It does not actually represent recyclable products or items, but is used as a reminder not to litter! Over time, many people have come to associate this logo with recycling. However, it is important to note that this logo appears on many objects - even those that cannot be recycled. 


Because the recycling logo is in the public domain, there are many variations and even artistic interpretations of it! If you do a simple google search of 'recycling' or 'recycling logo,' you are likely to come across many different interpretations and designs. 



Recycling With Panda Environmental 


Now that you know a bit more about the recycling logo and its history, why should you care about recycling in the first place? The simplest reason to care about recycling is that it helps the environment. Landfills simply have too much garbage coming into them. Our society today produces a huge amount of waste, and that waste all needs to go somewhere. Recycling even a small percentage of our waste can have a large impact on how much waste is actually sent to the landfill.


Unfortunately, many materials that end up in landfill contain toxic substances. Over time, these toxins can leach into our soil and groundwater and can become environmental hazards for years. One lesser known type of hazardous waste product is electronic waste. Waste such as televisions, computers and other electronic appliances contain a long list of hazardous substances, including mercury, arsenic, cadmium, PVC, solvents, acids and lead.


Recycling waste is the responsible thing to do. Of course, not everything can be recycled. However, recycling goods such as plastic, glass and aluminum can go a long way, and will also provide peace of mind, knowing that at least a small part is being done to preserve the environment. Panda offers a variety of services, from helping our clients recognize different materials that can be recycled, to helping set up sorting stations throughout the facility. A waste audit may also be beneficial to help recognize the different streams that can be diverted from landfills as well as a forecast of how much can be diverted annually. 


Click here to learn more about Panda's recycling programs and services!



Let Panda Help You With Your Recycling Needs Today!


Some of our fleet at Panda Environmental


Finding the right waste management and recycling company for you and your specific needs can be a challenge. At Panda, we work with our customers to help them find a waste disposal package that works for them!


Work with Panda today and you will work with a waste management company that cares about recycling and the environment. Panda Environmental has strived to be a leader in responsible waste management and recycling solutions across Ontario for over 15 years.


We are able to service all of your business' waste and recycling handling needs, including hazardous waste. For a full list of our service areas, click here. 


Click here for a list of all of the waste management and recycling solutions that we provide.



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