[Updated] Recycling symbols decoded: what these 15 symbols mean

Recycling is essential for ensuring the wellbeing of our planet going forward, but it can be difficult to figure out what each of the recycling symbols actually mean.

Sustainability is a growing topic in the beauty industry, with the British Beauty Council launching the Sustainable Beauty Coalition, and 26 certified B Corp beauty companies teaming up to improve the industry’s sustainability standards, in a bid to help address the problem.

We break down the 15 essential symbols you need to know to make a change to how your beauty salon or spa impacts the planet

1. Mobius Loop

This means the item is capable of being recycled, but not that it has been recycled, or will be accepted in all recycling collection systems. Sometimes this is accompanied by a percentage figure that indicates it’s made from X% recycled material.

2. Plastic Resin Codes

This identifies the type of plastic used. The number in the middle (which ranges from one to seven) acts as a resin identification code alongside the plastic’s acronym (e.g. PET stands for polyethylene terephthalate).

3. Glass

This symbol encourages you to recycle glass containers in a bottle bank (remember to separate different coloured glass). Alternatively, use your glass household recycling collection service if your local council has one.

4. Forest Stewardship Council

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo shows that wood and other forest-based items are sourced from well-managed forests and/or recycled and controlled sources and comply with the rules of the FSC.


5. Not Yet Recyclable

The label is applied to products that are recycled by less than 20% of local authorities in the UK.


6. Check Locally

This symbol appears on packaging that is collected by 20%–75% of local authorities in the UK.

7. Recyclable Steel

This means the item is made of steel and can be recycled by all local authorities.


8. Aluminium

The aluminium icon means the object is made from recyclable aluminium.


9. Compostable 

The seedling icon means the item can be composted. However, don’t mix this with recyclable items as it contaminates the recycling process.

10. The Green Dot

This symbol does not necessarily mean the item is recyclable. However, it means the producer has made a financial contribution to the recycling of packaging in Europe.

The Tidy Man Symbol

 11. The Tidy Man

 Another symbol which could easily be confused to mean the item is recyclable. This symbol serves as a   reminder not to litter.


12. Waste Electricals

Some electrical items cannot be disposed of in normal waste. Check with your local authority for kerbside collection, or recycle them at a recycling centre or at larger retailers.


13. Widely Recycled

This icon means the item is collected by 75% or more of local authorities across the UK. Variations of the symbol include instructions such as rinsing the item first, or keeping the lid of the product on.

Widely recyclable at recycling centres

14. Widely Recycled at Recycling Centres

Items with this symbol can only be recycled at specific recycling centre.

Home Composting

 15. Home Composting

 This symbol means the item can be composted at home.

Download our Recycling Decoded PDF: