What the packaging symbols really meanLast updated: 15 February 2021
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Symbols on packaging can be confusing. They do not always indicate whether the item can go in your kerbside recycling bin.
It’s more important to focus on what your council can accept for recycling, so check what your council says.
Here’s what the symbols really mean.
The product can be recycled or it was made from recycled materials.
This is not a recycling symbol. The code shows the type of plastic that the product is made of.
Numbers 1 and 2: Recycling bin
Numbers 3 to 7: Check your council's recycling advice.
A product may come in several packaging parts. This labelling system tells you what to do with each part.
Solid recycling symbol: Recycling bin
Transparent recycling symbol: This means ‘conditionally recyclable’. To recycle, follow the directions given.
Bin symbol: Rubbish bin
The product can be composted at home.
Check your council’s recycling advice or add it to your home compost.
The product must be composted at an industrial centre. Compostable plastics can’t go in your recycling 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.
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.
This is not a recycling symbol. It’s to remind us to dispose our items in the rubbish bin to avoid littering.
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?
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.
Knowing what the symbols mean can help us to buy better.
Where you can:
- avoid pre-packaged products
- choose items that come in packaging that can be recycled in your council.
Recycling is getting better
Work has begun to improve the recycling system and recyclability of packaging in Victoria.
Read about transforming recycling in Victoria.