Survey finds that the public get confused about household packaging labels

household recycling bin

A new survey by Which? has found that the public get confused about the definition of certain household packaging symbols and has called on the Government to simplify these labels.  

The research found that 48% of the 2,155 people surveyed thought the Green Dot symbol (two green arrows joined in a circle) found on packaging means that the item can be recycled. 


However, it actually means that the company has paid into a scheme that supports recycling and sustainable materials, not that the item itself is recyclable.   

The Mobius loop symbol (three arrows looped into a triangle) which means that something can be recycled was answered correctly by 73%, although Which? recommends that you still check with your local council that it will accept it as each area has different rules. 

Other figures from the survey found that: 

  • 59% understood that the green arrow with a tip which looks similar to a heart means that the item is recycled by more than 75% of local authorities, but the black version which means that the item is not collected by all LA was known by 38% 
  • The black arrow with a line through it which indicates that packaging is recycled by less than 20% of councils was understood by 6%. 

From this, Which? is calling on the Government and manufacturers to simplify and clarify packaging labels to ensure that consumers know what can and can’t be recycled, and to make recycling information labelling mandatory on all plastic packaging.  

Which? director of research and publishing Nikki Stopford told The Guardian: “We know that people want to reduce the waste that goes to landfill and recycle more but are often left baffled by a confusing array of symbols and inconsistent labelling.  

“We want the government and manufacturers to act now to bring about clear, simple and consistent labelling and to make that compulsory to help consumers know what can be recycled and how to recycle it.” 

Overall, 86% of people thought that all supermarket product packaging should be recyclable, with 88% saying it should always be clearly labelled with understandable recycling information. 

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