The Recycling Symbol

The Recycling Symbol / Some Variations

The Symbol for Recycling / What does it mean?

This symbol and variations of recycling is used to designate recyclable materials. It is composed of three chasing arrows that form a continuous loop. This symbol is not a trademark. It is in the public domain and can therefore be used by anybody.

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Sometimes though, local law may limit the use of this symbol in product labeling when it’s used to mislead consumers as to the nature of these products.

-The photo is by

The universal recycling symbol is known internationally. The three chasing arrows of the recycling symbol signify the three aspects or steps in the recycling process.

Steps? You mean there’s more to recycling than just dropping of the items at the curbside recycling center?


recycle symbol 2Of course there’s more to recycling than just dropping your recyclable trash at the center. Collection and sorting is just the first step.

The photo to the left was purchased on

The second step is the reprocessing of these materials into something that is usable. The third step is of course the action that closes the loop. This is when consumers buy recycled items. Without this crucial third step the cycle is incomplete.

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The concept and origin of the three arrows of recycling can be traced back to April 1970 when the first Earth Day was observed and a contest was held. The contest was sponsored by the Container Corporation of America. It was announced to environmentally aware art students and they were asked to create a design symbolizing the paper recycling process.

-The photo to the left was purchased on

The winning entry was to be used to identify products and packages made from recycled and recyclable fibers. This campaign was also designed to make the public aware that recycling paper was effective and additionally would conserve natural resources tremendously.

CCA was promoting the idea to the public that paper was prime material for recycling and that recycling was an excellent way to promote environmental health.

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Over 500 talented artists and art students submitted their entries to be decided on by a distinguished panel of judges at the International Design Conference at Aspen, Colorado. The theme of the conference was “Environment by Design”.

-The picture to the left is from Bob Market’s photostream.-

Gary Dean Anderson, a graduate student at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles took first prize, second place went to Mike Norcia of New York, and Janet McElmurry of the University of Georgia took third. Twenty other Awards of Excellence were also presented.

Anderson drew the symbol completely by hand using pen and ink. At the time computer graphics was a largely experimental field and no one had personal computers then.

During this time graphic design was largely limited to arrangements of alpha-numeric characters. Anderson admitted that he had been thinking about this design for some time and had experimented with variations and other configurations. Anderson worked out his series of designs over a period of two to three days.

Since that time that Gary Dean Anderson won first prize, many variations of the recycling symbol (some shown on this page) have been designed and used to inspire people across the world to get educated about why recycling is important.

Find more Recycling Symbols here:


Sources /

For more information on the importance of recycling follow these links:

Recycling Prices

Cash For Recycling Cans

European Metal Recycling

Aluminum Recycling Prices

Copper Recycling Prices

Recycling Lead

Recycle Carpet

Recycle Clip Art

Recycling Ink Cartridges

Recycling Metals

Recycling Old Computers

Recycling Paper

PET Recycling

Recycling Plastic Bottles

Styrofoam Recycling

Recycling Tires

Recycling Water

History of Recycling

Recycling For Kids

Recycling Benefits

Recycling Clip Art

Recycling Process

Recycling Statistics

Recycling Slogans

What is Recycling

Interesting Recycling Facts

Why is Recycling Important

Help the Environment by Recycling

Return From Recycling Symbol to the Benefits of Recycling home page.