What the packaging symbols really mean

Last updated: 9 November 2020

The symbols

Symbols on packaging can be confusing. They do not always indicate whether the item can go in your kerbside recycling bin.

Here’s what they really mean.

Recycling symbol (or Mobius Loop)

The product can be recycled or it was made from recycled materials.

Which bin?

Check your council’s recycling advice.

Recycling symbol (or Mobius Loop)

Plastics identification code (or resin code)

This is not a recycling symbol. The code shows the type of plastic that the product is made of.

Which bin?

Numbers 1 and 2: Recycling bin

Numbers 3 to 7: Check your council's recycling advice.

Plastic resin codes 1 to 7

Australasian Recycling Label (ARL)

A product may come in several packaging parts. This labelling system tells you what to do with each part.

Which bin?

Solid recycling symbol: Recycling bin

Transparent recycling symbol: This means ‘conditionally recyclable’. To recycle, follow the directions given.

Bin symbol: Rubbish bin

Australasian Recycling Label (ARL)

Home compostable

The product can be composted at home.

Which bin?

Check your council’s recycling advice or add it to your home compost.

Home compostable symbol AS 5810
Seedling logo

Industrially compostable

The product must be composted at an industrial centre. Compostable plastics can’t go in your recycling bin.

Which bin?

Green waste bin (FOGO or food, garden and organic waste bin)

If you don’t have a green waste bin, put in your rubbish bin.

Industrially compostable BPI symbol

Bioplastics, landfill biodegradable, oxo-degradable (or D2W) plastics and degradable plastics

Biodegradable and degradable packaging contain chemicals to help them break down into smaller pieces of plastic. These can end up in the environment and harm wildlife.

Which bin?

Rubbish bin


Tidyman

This is not a recycling symbol. It’s to remind us to dispose our items in the rubbish bin to avoid littering.

Which bin?

Rubbish bin

Tidyman symbol

Make sure the right items go into the right bin

Make sure only things that can be recycled (recyclables) go into the recycling bin. When items that cannot be recycled are put in the wrong bin, this is called contamination. Wipe or rinse any remaining food or liquids as this can also be contamination.

Contamination can be dangerous for the facility workers and can damage recycling equipment. They can also damage recyclables, making them hard to re-sell and causing them to end up in landfill.

To help reduce contamination, find out Can I recycle this?

Each council recycles differently

A recycling symbol shows that the item can be recycled. It does not guarantee that your council can accept it for recycling. Each council recycles differently according to their contracts with recycling facilities.

It’s more important to focus on what your council can accept. The easiest way to know is, check your council's waste and recycling advice.

Plastic ID code 2

Recycling can start when you’re shopping

Knowing what the symbols mean can help us to buy better.

Where you can:

Recycling is getting better

Work has begun to improve the recycling system and recyclability of packaging in Victoria.

Read about transforming recycling in Victoria.