Ever glanced at a product or its packaging and noticed one of the symbols seen on the right? Did you think that, because the symbol is the three chasing arrows, the material was recyclable? Unfortunately, this is not necessarily the case. These symbols are called Resin Identification Codes (RICs), and details are highlighted in the photo below. RICs were developed by The Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) in 1988 and are now required for use in 39 states. According to How2Recycle, RICs aim to "assist in the identification of resin types for the recycling and plastics industries." In other words, RICs serve the plastics and recycling industries, not necessarily these industries' consumers. The American Society for Testing and Materials states that RICs are not “recycle codes,” do not imply inherent recyclability, and should not be in close proximity to environmental claims (including recyclability). Consumer testing by GreenBlue and other organizations show that the majority of the public does not understand RICs. Consumer interpretations have ranged from a plastics “grade,” popularity, number of times it was recycled, to the presumption that an RIC means something is recyclable. In addition, RICs are not universally found on bags, films, or other product packaging because of varying legislation and interpretations of the guidelines in the photo below.
We've determined that RICs aren't the most effective way to determine if a product is recyclable. How can we label our products so that they do educate consumers about recyclability? How2Recycle is working to answer this question.
The How2Recycle Label™
The How2Recycle™ Label is a voluntary, standardized labeling system that clearly communicates recycling instructions to the public. How2Recycle has recently developed a new recycling label to provide consistent and transparent on-package recycling information to consumers. Currently the label only applies to packaging sold in the U.S., with a few select labels available for packaging sold in Canada. The How2Recycle Label is compatible with RICs, however How2Recycle recommends revamping the RICs "to be more useful to the plastics community while removing the chasing arrows because of confusion surrounding their meaning."