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Three plastic milk cans

How to Recycle

Understanding recycling symbols

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Recycling symbols appear on lots of everyday items and help us to identify how different types of packaging can be recycled.

The on-pack recycling label (or OPRL)

Look out for the following labels which appear on all sorts of packaging, from soft drink cans, to bread bags and plastic toiletry bottles. They will tell you whether the packaging is likely to be collected for recycling from home or if you can take it to your local recycling centre.

As local councils do not all collect the same materials, the labels are based on what the majority collect, or do not collect.

If in doubt, enter your postcode into our Recycling Locator tool to find out what you can put in your recycling container at home and how to recycle specific items such as mobile phones and textiles.

Remember: not all packaging will have a recycling label, but this doesn't mean you can't recycle it.

White recycling swoosh on a green background with the word "Recycle" underneath


This label is applied to packaging that’s collected by 75% or more of local councils across the UK, for example plastic bottles.

White recycling swoosh on a green background with the word "Recycle" underneath and the word "Rinse" above

Recycle | Rinse

By giving packaging a quick rinse, for example food trays, it ensures any food residue doesn’t ‘contaminate’ other materials, particularly if they’re collected together with cardboard or paper.

Greasy, wet or stained cardboard or paper reduces its quality and means it’s less likely to be recycled.

White recycling swoosh on a green background with the word "Recycle" underneath and the word "Lid on" above

Recycle | Rinse | Lid/Cap on

Caps and lids under 40mm in diameter are too small to be captured for recycling, as they might get lost. If you see this label, re-place the lid onto the bottle or jar to ensure it is captured and recycled with the main item.

White recycling swoosh with diagonal line through it on a black background with the words "sleeve" and "Don't Recycle"underneath and the words "Remove Sleeve" above

Don't Recycle | Remove Sleeve/Film

You might see this instruction on packaging where you can easily remove plastic film or liners with a perforated strip, without needing to use a knife or pair of scissors. There should be clear instructions on the item about how to do this, for example ‘peel here’.

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