Recycling's universal insignia, the Mobius Loop, was coined by University of Southern California student Gary Anderson in honor of the first Earth Day in 1970. Today, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recognizes it as an indication of recyclability, meaning it is accepted by most community programs for repurposing, but it doesn't necessarily contain reclaimed materials.
Three arrows enclosed in a circle implies the object is recycled, but take care to note what is repurposed—the packaging, lid or cap, or product itself—as producers are required by the FTC to indicate. Black arrows against a white background imply a combination of new and reused materials, and sometimes contain the exact percentage in the loop’s center. When the arrows are white and the background is black, the product is 100 percent recycled.
Often, plastic items identify the exact type by a ranked Resin Identification Code scale, which indicates the specific category and proper disposal method. For example, polyethylene terephalates (Level 1) compose most clear containers—think soda bottles and ketchup—whereas their screw-on caps are polypropylenes (Level 5). Both can typically be collected curbside, but the former is repurposed for tote bags and the latter becomes brooms or brushes. Not all communities will accept each number, so check with your center before discarding. Hint: The higher the number, the less common the plastic, and thus more difficult to reuse.
For discarded cardboard, glass, or even mobile phones, organizations like the Electronic Recyclers International or Recycled Paperboard Alliance have adopted their own trademarked badges apart from common monograms. You might recognize cereal boxes branded with the “100% Recycled Paperboard” seal, implying their cardboard is entirely recycled. Or maybe you've seen companies bearing certificates of ERI registration. While following FTC guidelines, these groups operate closely on the producer level to monitor accreditation requirements beyond the broad scope of non-trademarked symbols.