Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle…

Litter picking © CBMWC

Litter picking © CBMWC

Reduce, reuse, recycle. It’s a tune we’re all familiar with, and a message that has been clear since the 1970’s…Or has it? Recycling can sometimes seem overwhelming, with packaging covered in seemingly endless symbols, with different meanings in different places.

Our Living Seas Team would like to help clear things up! Below is a guide to the more commonly found recycling symbols, explaining what it is that they mean, and how to sort your waste with ease.

Living Seas Wales handy recycling guide © Living Seas Wales

So, what do all the symbols mean?!

Mobius Loop

The Mobius Loop – a familiar symbol: three arrows arranged in a triangular shape, facing clockwise. This symbol means that an item can be recycled! It does not mean that the product itself is made from recycled materials, however sometimes a % symbol is present alongside the Mobius Loop to indicate this.

Plastic Resin Symbols

Plastic Resin Codes – again, a familiar symbol: three arrows arranged in a triangular shape, facing clockwise, but this time with a number in the middle. This symbol is only found on plastic products, and appropriate disposal depends on the number:

  • 1 – 2: Generally, easily recycled.
  • 3 – 4: Can usually be recycled, although it can vary depending on locality. We would recommend checking with your local council before disposing of these products.
  • 5 – 7: Cannot be recycled easily yet.

Widely Recycled

Widely Recycled – a green arrow rotating clockwise. In this case the product is generally recyclable, by over 75% of local authorities in the UK. Sometimes this symbol will include additional wording/instructions, for example “rinse”. These instructions should be followed, as it helps recycling centres to protect from contamination and reduce the risk of attracting unwanted guests to recycling facilities!

Check Locally

Check Locally – a black/white arrow rotating clockwise. In this case the product can only be recycled by between 20% - 75% of local authorities in the UK. This means that it is worth checking that the item is collected in your area before you place the product in the recycle bin!

You can use the Wales Recycles website to find out more about which products can be appropriately disposed of by your local council. Simply select “recycling at home” and enter your postcode to learn more.

The Green Dot

The Green Dot – a symbol composed of two interlacing arrows (usually green) in a circle. This symbol is a little bit tricky and is not quite what it seems…the Green Dot means that the manufacturer has made a financial contribution to recycling services in Europe…it does not mean that the product is recyclable.

Recyclable Aluminium

Recyclable aluminium – two arrows, rotating clockwise, with “alu” in the centre. This symbol means that the product is made of recyclable aluminium. Ensure that the product has been cleaned fully, and, in most cases, you can place it in the recycling!

Recyclable Steel

Recyclable steel – A magnet attracting a steel can. This symbol indicates that the product is made of steel. All local authorities will collect steel cans and recycle them!


Glass - Three arrows arranged in a triangular shape, facing clockwise, with a stick person in the centre, placing a bottle in a bin. This symbol asks you to recycle the glass product. Glass can be appropriately disposed of at a bottle bank, or through kerbside collection – if your local council offers this. Glass recycling can seem a little complicated, as not all glass types can be recycled. A lot of this relates to the colour of the glass, and subsequent melting temperature.


Tidyman – A stick person, disposing of waste in a bin. Fairly familiar to most, the Tidyman symbol originates from Keep Britain Tidy. It simply acts as a reminder to dispose of your waste appropriately. It does not necessarily mean that the product is recyclable.


Compostable – a fancy number six, with sprouting leaves. Products, including plastics, bearing this symbol are compostable. This means they should not be put in your normal recycling. Instead, place them in your food or garden waste bin.

Forest Stewardship Council

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) – A tick which morphs into a deciduous tree. The FSC logo can be found on wood-based products from well managed forests – independently certified in line with the FSC’s rules. Wood and timber are generally not accepted in your household recycling, however, can be taken to local waste recycling facilities.

Happy recycling!