Recycling Symbols - What do they all mean?

Woman carrying recycling box

Labels and recycling symbols appear on many different items. They are there to help us identify how different types of packaging can be recycled. Here is a quick guide from Recycle Now on the most common labels and symbols.

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.

Councils do not all collect the same things so if you have any doubt enter your postcode into the Recycling Locator to find out what you can put in your recycling bin at home and where your nearest recycling locations are

Remember: not all packaging will have a recycling label but this doesn't mean you can't recycle it.

Widely Recycled

OPRL label - Widely RecycledAccording to Recycle Now this label is applied to packaging that is collected by 75% or more of local authorities across the UK, for example, plastic bottles.

Widely Recycled - Rinse

OPRL label - Widely Recycled - RinseRinsing packaging, like food trays, removes food residue. This means it doesn’t contaminate other recycled materials. This is especially important if they are collected together with paper.

It also reduces the attraction for vermin in the recycling sorting centres.

Widely Recycled - Rinse, Lid On

OPRL label - Widely Recycled - Rinse, Lind On

You might see this on a glass jar. You should rinse these items and put their lids back on. Even though the lid of the jar might be metal, it is better to keep it on.

If the metal lid is too small it will fall through holes in the sorting process, designed to remove contamination. The metal is separated from the glass by the glass recyclers and goes off to be recycled elsewhere.

Widely Recycled - Flatten, Cap On

OPRL label - Widely Recycled - Flatten, Cap OnFlatten – you might see this on plastic bottles and drinks cartons. If you squash or flatten the packaging it means you will have more space in your recycling bin. It also makes the transport of recycling much more efficient – less air, more recycling, better for the environment. Replacing the caps on bottles (and some cartons too) also helps to keep them flat.

Cap On - you might see this on plastic bottles. If the cap is too small it will fall through the holes in the sorting process, designed to remove contamination. Keeping the cap on means that all the packaging will get through the recycling process. It also prevents other materials, particularly glass, getting stuck inside the bottles.

Check Locally

OPRL label - Check LocallyThis label is applied to packaging that is collected by 20-75% of local authorities across the UK, for example, some types of plastic packaging.

Not Yet Recycled

OPRL label - Not Yet RecycledThis label is applied to packaging when less than 20% of local authorities collect it across the UK, for example, crisp packets.

Free Bin Collection & Recycling Apps

These free apps provide you with all the information you need about bin collection and recycling centres in your area.

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