Recycling symbols appear on lots of everyday items and help us to identify how different types of packaging can be recycled.
The on-pack recycling label (or OPRL)
Look out for the following labels which appear on all sorts of packaging - from soft drink cans, to bread bags and plastic toiletry bottles. They will tell you whether the packaging is likely to be collected for recycling or if you can take it to your local recycling centre.
As local authorities do not all collect the same materials, the labels are based on what the majority collect, or do not collect.
If in doubt, enter your postcode into our Recycling Locator tool to find out what you can put in your home recycling bin and how to recycle specific items such as mobile phones and textiles.
Remember: not all packaging will have a recycling label but this doesn't mean you can't recycle it.
This label is applied to packaging collected by 75% or more of UK local authorities and then sorted, processed and recycled into new packaging or products.
This label is applied to packaging collected by less than 50% of UK local authorities and/or is not able to be sorted, processed and recycled into new packaging or products.
Recycle | Rinse
Rinsing recyclable packaging, like yoghurt pots and soup tins, ensures that any food or product residue doesn’t contaminate other materials, particularly if they are collected together with paper.
Recycle | Rinse | Lid on
Caps and lids under 40mm in diameter are too small to be captured for recycling, they fall through the holes in the screens at the sorting facilty. If you see this label, putting the lid back on the bottle packaging will help it to be captured and recycled.
Recycle with bags at large supermarkets | Don't recycle at home
You can see this label on plastic wrapping such as bread bags, fruit and veg bags, crisp packets and chocolate wrappers. You can recycle this type of packaging at recycling points in selected supermarkets.
Recycle | Bottle Cap on | Don't Recycle | Remove Sleeve
Some packaging components need separating before you dispose of them. You may see a label like this on packaging where a sleeve, film or liner can be easily removed from the main packaging item. In this case, the sleeve is removed from a bottle by pulling a perforated strip, the bottle can be recycled but the sleeve goes in the rubbish.
Find out what you can recycle at home
The following symbols can be found on a variety of packaging and explain a range of information: whether or not an item can be recycled, how to dispose of the item, or if it's made of recycled material.
Plastic resin codes
These identify the type of plastic resin used to make the item by providing a 'Resin Identification Code'. It is represented with a 'chasing arrows' symbol surrounding a a number between 1 and 7 that defines the resin used.
1 - PET, used for drinks bottles and some food packaging: Widely recycled
2 - HDPE, used for cleaning product bottles, milk cartons, etc: Widely recycled
3 - PVC, used for car parts, window fittings, etc: Not easily recyclable
4 - LDPE, used for plastic bags and wrapping, etc: Recycle at specialist points
5 - PP, used for some tubs and trays etc: Widely recycled
6 - PS, used for takeaway boxes, disposable cutlery, etc: Not easily recyclable
7 - Other, used for crisp packets, rice packets etc: Recycle at specialist points
Find out more about how to recycle:
This symbol asks that you recycle the glass container. Please dispose of glass bottles and jars in a bottle bank, remembering to separate colours, or use your glass household recycling collection if you have one.
This symbol explains that you should not place electrical items in your waste bin. Electrical items can be recycled a number of ways including via retailers and at Recycling Centres.
Products certified to be industrially compostable according to the European standard EN 13432/14955 may bear the 'seedling' logo.
Never put compostable plastic into the recycling with other plastics; as it is designed to break down it cannot be recycled and contaminates recyclable plastics. Plastics that carry this symbol can be recycled with your garden waste through your local authority.
Home compostable packaging
In addition to the seedling symbol for industrial composting, you may see this one which means that it is suitable to be home composted. This should not be put in your home plastics recycling collection.
This indicates that an object is capable of being recycled but not that it will necessarily be accepted in all recycling collection systems or that it has been recycled. Sometimes this symbol is used with a percentage figure in the middle to explain that the packaging contains x% of recycled material.
The Green Dot
The Green Dot does not necessarily mean that the packaging is recyclable, will be recycled or has been recycled. It is a symbol used on packaging in some European countries and signifies that the producer has made a financial contribution towards the recovery and recycling of packaging in Europe.
This symbol from Keep Britain Tidy asks you not to litter. It doesn't relate to recycling but is a reminder to be a good citizen, disposing of the item in the most appropriate manner.