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Advice and answers from the ISM Waste & Recycling Team
Posted: 12th August 2021

What Do The Different Packaging Recycling Symbols Mean?

Recycling can be a bit confusing in the UK there are loads of different rules about what can and can't be recycled.

Luckily, most of the products and packaging we buy include recycling symbols explaining how to recycle them.

Throughout the UK, plastic packaging accounts for nearly 70% of our plastic waste, a lot of which is recyclable.

We know the importance of recycling, and it's vital for people to understand how to recycle correctly. This guide helps you better understand what the different recycling symbols we see on packaging mean.

Widely Recycled

Starting with an easy one, and one we like to see, the widely recycled symbol means exactly what it says. This label applies to items collected by 75% or more of local authorities in the UK. You're most likely going to be able to recycle these items in your household recycling bin.


  • Water and drinks bottles
  • Food containers
  • Cooking oil bottles
Widely Recycled Symbol

Widely Recycled - Rinse | Lid On

Similar to widely recycled, items with this logo are recycled by more than 75% of local councils. However, these need rinsing to remove any remaining contents. Lids need replacing to ensure they're recycled. Caps under 40mm wide are too small for the recycling facilities.


  • Water and drinks bottles
  • Food containers
  • Cooking oil bottles
Widely Recycled Rinse and Lid On Symbol

Recycle with Bags at Larger Stores

Many plastics can be recycled, but unfortunately, not all plastics are accepted in your kerbside collections. Certain plastic items can only be recycled at large supermarkets. There will usually be a recycling point inside the store or the car park for these items.


  • Plastic cereal bags
  • Plastic bags
  • Shrink wrap
Widely recycled at Larger Stores Symbol

Widely Recycled - Flatten Cap

You will most likely see this recycling logo on plastic bottles and drinks cartons. Flattening packaging means you'll have more space in your recycling bin, and more recyclables can be transported in one load to improve efficiency and reduce the carbon footprint.


  • Plastic bottles
  • Drinks cartons
  • Plastic containers
Widely Recycled Flatten Cap Symbol

Widely Recycled at Recycling Centres

These items are not accepted in your household recycling collection, but they are recyclable. Any materials with this symbol on them will need to be taken to your local recycling centre to ensure that it gets recycled. For more information about your local recycling centres, click here.


  • Paint cans
  • Drinks cartons
  • Plastic containers
Widely Recycled at Recycling Centres Symbol

Check Locally

Check locally is sort of the middle ground, it means the packaging you've got is recycled by more than 20% of local authorities but less than 75%. These items are more difficult to recycle, and only specialist facilities will have the equipment to recycle these items. You can easily check on using Recycle Now's recycling locator for more information.

Check Locally Symbol

Not Yet Recycled

'Not yet recycled' can be a bit misleading. While in most cases, products with this sign on them can't be recycled, what this sign actually means is that less than 20% of local authorities recycle them. Crisp packets are a good example of this; crips packets can be recycled, but because very few councils recycle them, they will include this symbol.

Not Yet Recycled Symbol

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