What do those symbols on plastic bottles mean? And why are they different from the ones on the box your latest online purchase came in? Here, the cheat sheet you need properly dispose of recyclables. 

By Allison Ingram

When did lending a hand to Mother Earth become Hieroglyphics 101? We’ll admit—the chasing arrows and reuse codes befuddle us at times, too. According to the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s 2015-2016 Report, 94 percent of the US population has access to some type of recycling program, but not every community accepts all materials, thus relying on symbols to dictate reuse and disposal. While the forms might resemble, they can vary in function for consumers and producers alike.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has outlined marketing guidelines for recycled merchandising and promotion, requiring prominent notation of product, package, and service claims. In other words, “recycled content” can refer to the product (say, aluminum foil) or the packaging (cardboard box). And just because your water bottle is recycled, doesn’t mean your cap is too. Here are a few everyday emblems handy for those moments of curbside confusion or grocery-aisle deciphering.

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