Recycling Labels Explained

Recycling Labels Explained

Equator Print are truly passionate about the environment, conservation, recycling and the impact that an end life-cycle of print and packaging has on our eco-systems, forests and wildlife.

Equator Print can design and print your labels and packaging –  We encourage re-use and up-cycling and will highlight and encourage creative design concepts, promote official packaging and recylcing labels, provide guidance on material selection and openly encourage the use of recyclable materials and environmental awareness when creating your graphic design, print and packaging designs. We ensure that when your product or service reaches the end of its life-cycle, consumers and recycling plants are able to re-use and re-cycle.

Labels and recycling symbols are now appearing 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: Recycling Locator to find out what you can put in your recycling bin at home, where your nearest recycling locations are and how to recycle specific items such as mobile phones and textiles.

Equator Print  encourage up-cycling, reuse and continue to promote environmental design and print awareness by highlighting creative ideas that may be incorporated into the conceptual design and material selection stage of your graphic design and print projects.

It is also important to note: not all packaging will have a recycling label but this doesn’t mean you can’t recycle it.

OPRL Labels

Recycling Labels, Recycling Symbols & Recycling Logos Explained.

Packaging Recycle Labels - widely-recycled_Print Recycle Symbols London

Widely Recycled

This label is applied to packaging that is collected by 75% or more of local authorities across the UK, for example plastic bottles.

Packaging Recycle Labels - widely-recycled-rinse_Print Recycle Symbols London

Widely Recycled – Rinse

Rinsing packaging, for example food trays, ensures that any food residue doesn’t contaminate other materials, particularly if they are collected together with paper.

It also helps to stop attracting vermin into the recycling sorting centres where people work.

Packaging Recycle Labels_widely-recycled-rinse-lid-on Print Recycle Symbols_London

Widely Recycled – Rinse, Lid On

You might see thise on a glass jar, for example. These items should be rinsed, as above, and their lids left on. Even though the lid of the jar might be metal, it is better to be kept on.

If the metal lid is too small then 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.

Packaging Recycle Labels_widely-recycled-flatten-cap-on_Print Recycle LogoWidely Recycled – Flatten, Cap On

Flatten – you might see this on plastic bottles and drinks cartons. Squashing or flattening the packaging means that you 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) helps to keep them flat.

Cap On – you might see this on plastic bottles. If the cap is too small then it will fall through the holes in the sorting process, designed to remove contamination. Keeping the cap on means that all of the packaging will get through the recycling process. When recycling is collected all mixed together it also helps to prevent other materials, particularly glass, getting stuck inside the bottles.

Bottle – Widely Recycled, Sleeve – Not Yet RecycledPackaging Recycle Labels_widely-recycled-bottle-not-yet-recycled-sleeve_Print Recycle Symbols_London

Remove sleeve – depending on the packaging it can be good to remove the outer sleeve. For example, a paper sleeve that is wrapped around a large yoghurt pot can be removed and recycled with paper.

Sometimes the sleeves are not recyclable and therefore the instruction is to remove the sleeve and put it in the waste bin. If it doesn’t say either way, then you can probably leave it on and it will be removed during the recycling process.

Widely Recycled at Recycling Centres

Metal paint cans

Metal paint cans can be recycled at recycling centres. Some paint can also be recycled. Check with your local council.

Packaging Recycle Labels_OPRL-widely-recycled-recycling-points_Print_Recylce_Symbols_Hinckley

Widely Recycled at Recycling Points: 
Check Locally for Kerbside

Food and drink cartons

Food and drink cartons, e.g. Tetra Paks are collected by many local authorities and can also be recycled at many recycling centres.

Packaging Recycle Labels_OPRL-recycle-with-bags_Print Recycle Symbols

Recycle with Bags at Larger Stores:
Check Locally for Kerbside

Plastic film, wrap and bags (PE)

Some plastic films can be recycled at supermarket’s carrier bag collection points. Look out for the ‘Recycle with carrier bags at larger stores’ message on your breakfast cereal, toilet and kitchen roll wraps, bread bag, grocery produce, multipack shrink wrap and newspaper and magazine wraps.

Packaging Recycle Labels_OPRL-check-locally_Print_Recyle_Symbols_Hinckley

Check Locally

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

Packaging Recycle Labels_OPRL-not-yet-recycled_Print_REcycle_Symbols_Hinckley

Not Yet Recycled

This label is applied to packaging when less than 20% of local authorities collect it across the UK, for example crisp packets.

Additional Environmental & Recycling Symbols

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.

Packaging Recycle Labels_Green-dot_Print_Recycle_Symbols_Hinckley

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.

Packaging Recycle Labels_Mobius-Loop_Print_Packaging_Symbol_London

Mobius Loop

This indicates that an object is capable of being recycled, not that the object has been recycled or will be accepted in all recycling collection systems. Sometimes this symbol is used with a percentage figure in the middle to explain that the packaging contains x% of recycled material.


Plastic resin codes

This identifies 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.

More about how to recycle plastic bottles


As the UK’s Environmentally Friendly – Eco Printer. We can offer Freelance Graphic Design Services and Eco-Print Solutions that help benefit the Environment and reduce the Environmental Impact from waste and excess energy consumption.

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