The Truth of the Recycling Symbol
The iconic chasing arrows logo of recycling was designed by Gary Anderson as a symbol for recycled paper in 1970. Today, the symbol has become internationally recognized, printed as t-shirt designs, and appearing on a variety of packaging materials. Over the years, this symbol's meaning expanded from "made with recycled content," to "this product can be recycled." But, now that recycling markets are different in different regions, this symbol's meaning has become too vague.
Any manufacturer can stamp that symbol on their product, but it doesn't mean you can recycle it in your curbside cart. Sometimes, it simply means that the product is made with recycled content. Sometimes, it means that at least part of the package is recyclable if you pull off the non-recyclable portions. Sometimes a package is recyclable when produced, but not after it is filled with other products, like a greasy pizza. It may be recyclable in some areas, but not in others depending on the hauler's sorting process and sales markets.
Feeling frustrated? So are we.
We want you to recycle right, but packaging materials are often distributed globally with little regulation or communication between the producers and the recyclers. A plastic clamshell container may be recyclable in the Midwest of the USA, but there are no markets for it in the PNW. A plastic bag or glass may be accepted in curbside mixed recycling if the region has the sorting equipment to separate it, but in Clark County, plastic bags are one of the worst contaminants in the mixed curbside recycling because it gets twisted and jams up the sort line. In Clark County, our sort lines are predominantly sorted by hand, so it's important that we collect glass separately to keep our workers safe from sharp edges.
How2Recycle© is re-thinking the recycling symbol to make "a standardized labeling system that clearly communicates recycling instructions to the public." More than just the chasing arrows, the new symbol will provide text to explain what materials can be recycled and how or if the material is only recyclable in certain areas with a link to their website for more help. Some of the big producers like Target, Nestle, General Mills, Hasbro, and others have already signed on to participate in this new labeling system! But we're still a long way from a globalized standard.
In Clark County, we want to make recycling easy for you. You don't have to search for questionable recycling symbols; you don't have to look at the number of plastic; you just have to follow 3 simple steps. And if you're not sure, we give you permission to throw it in the trash because that is better than contaminating and trashing a whole bale of recyclables.
3 Simple Steps to Recycle Right in Clark County
1. Mixed Recycling: (empty, clean and dry) Paper and Cardboard / Plastic Bottles, Tubs, and Jugs / Metal Cans and Tins
2. Always recycle Glass Bottles and Jars in a separate bin
3. When in doubt, check it out at RecyclingA-Z.com