What the recycling symbol really means

The chasing arrows symbol doesn’t always mean an item is recyclable. Here’s how to know what you can actually put in your recycling bin.

Recycling can be tricky to understand, especially if you’re just getting started with your sustainability journey. Just learning about recycling may seem like a small step, but it actually makes a big difference in ensuring you’re recycling effectively! Don’t worry; we’re here to help you understand what can and can’t be recycled kerbside and how you can use TerraCycle as a solution to everything that isn’t accepted by your local program.

When you see this symbol, you may immediately think that the item is recyclable, but that isn’t necessarily the case. This symbol with three arrows pointing to one another is called the “chasing arrows” or sometimes a “Mobius loop.” It’s been the focus of a lot of attention recently, so here’s a quick overview of what it is and isn’t. 

What the chasing arrows symbol means

The chasing arrows symbol with a number in the middle is a resin identification code. It’s used on plastic material to identify the resin that the item is made of. Here’s a breakdown of which code is for which type of plastic. 

You may have also seen the symbol with a percentage inside. In this case, the percentage indicates how much recycled material is in the item. 

What the symbol doesn’t mean

The chasing arrows symbol does not mean you can throw the product in your recycling bin. It all depends on what’s accepted by your kerbside recycling program. Most programs accept #1 and #2 plastics, glass, aluminium, and cardboard.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for people to throw rubbish in their recycling bin just because they see the recycling symbol. This well-intentioned “wishcycling” can contaminate the stream of recyclable material and does more harm than good.

How can this information help you in your sustainability journey?

Now that you know what the recycling symbol means, check with your local council to see what items they accept. Don’t forget to share this information with your neighbours so you can all recycle properly!

And for the items that you can’t put in your recycling bin, there’s TerraCycle. You may see the TerraCycle logo on your favourite products, which means you can recycle them through TerraCycle for free in Australia and New Zealand. If we don’t have a free recycling program for what you’re looking for, check out our Zero Waste Boxes as a way to #RecycleEverything.

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