What are the different symbols on plastic containers?

Container symbols

Tupperware, cosmetic containers, cleaning products, food, toys… All these everyday objects are made of plastic and, when we use the word in the singular, we do not realize that probably each of the things listed is made of a different plastic.

And it is true that the packaging or products made of this material are stamped with the type of plastic, but most consumers do not distinguish between them, which has an impact on the possibility of recycling them.

What the symbols on packaging mean

We use lots of packaging every day. And although we hardly ever stop to read them carefully, if you have, you will notice that there are lots of standardized symbols on them. Some have an obvious meaning, but others… are more difficult to understand. Let’s go through them to see what they mean:

Crossed-out container: This symbol appears on the packaging of electronic devices, and tells us that we should not throw it away when it is no longer useful, but take it to a clean point because it has substances that could be dangerous if they end up in a landfill. This symbol certifies that the appliance complies with Royal Decree 208/2005 on electrical and electronic equipment and its waste, and that its recycling must be free of charge for the consumer.

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Circles: Medicines may bear one of these four circles. The white one means that a prescription is required to buy it. The black one means that the prescription must be for narcotics.  Those that are divided mark medicines containing psychotropic substances, depending on their class.

Recycling symbols and their meaning

The containers or products bearing these symbols remind us that they can be or have been recycled, and provide us with information as diverse as the type of material they are made of, or the specific place where they should be deposited for convenient recycling. Thanks to this, consumers can become aware of the importance of recycling, a habit that helps to save energy, raw materials and in the waste collection and disposal process.

A Green Dot packaging means that your responsible company complies with Law 11/97 on Packaging and Packaging Waste. In other words, it is guaranteed that when it becomes waste, this packaging will be recycled and recovered, normally through the Integrated Packaging Waste Management System (SIG), managed by Ecoembes. Specifically, the containers that can carry this symbol are plastic, metal containers and Brik type containers; cardboard and paper; and glass.

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The Green Dot symbol was created in 1991 by the private German non-profit company Duales System Deutschland AG. It was subsequently adopted by other European Union countries, and in 1994 the Member States decided to make it the mark for the European Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive.

Plastic chemical symbol

It is the typical plastic used in food and beverage containers because it is light, resistant and recyclable. In this sense, once recycled, PET can be used in furniture, carpets, textile fibers, car parts and occasionally in new food packaging, among others.

This strong, flexible and transparent plastic can be found in a wide variety of bags (shopping bags, frozen food bags, bread bags, etc.), hoses, buckets, etc. After recycling, it can be used again in containers and waste garbage cans, envelopes, panels, pipes or tiles, for example.

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It is used in disposable plates and cups, egg cups, disposable trays used in food, aspirin containers, etc. Its low melting point means that it can melt on contact with heat. Once recycled, various products can be obtained, including building materials, insulating materials, etc. .

It is very important to emphasize that only plastics that are part of a container (together with cans and briks) are deposited in the yellow container. If you wish to recycle other types of plastic products and materials, such as a toy or a plastic chair, you should take them to the recycling points.