The next time you see a How2Recycle label, use this guide to help you decode it…

You may have noticed that many products have small labels on the packaging that are designed to tell you exactly how the item should be recycled. These are called How2Recycle labels, and they’re incredibly helpful as long as you know how to read them. The next time you see a How2Recycle label, use this guide to help you decode it:

Preparation

The top portion of the How2Recycle label will tell you what you need to do to prepare the item to be recycled. For example, the label may say that you need to “empty before recycling,” which means that all of the product should be removed before the package can be recycled. Other instructions may include “rinse before recycling,” or “recycle if clean & dry.” This part of the label will also tell you if you need to remove pumps, sprayers, or lids on the packaging before it can be recycled. Pay close attention to these instructions and make sure they are followed closely. If you toss something in the recycling bin without following these instructions, it’s possible that it will not be successfully recycled.

Recycling

The center portion of the How2Recycle label will inform you if the product can be recycled at a local recycling center or if you have to take it elsewhere. Every label will contain the recycling symbol, but some labels may have text within the symbol. If you only see the recycling symbol, this means the item is widely recycled, so you should be able to toss it in your recycling bin. If the label has the recycling symbol with a diagonal line going through it, this means the product is not recyclable anywhere.

You may also see “Check Locally” written in the center of the recycling symbol. This indicates that the product may or may not be accepted at your local recycling center. If you see this, it’s best to call the center closest to you to find out what you should do with the item in question. Finally, you may also see “Store Drop-Off” in the center of the recycling symbol. This symbol indicates that the item is not accepted at recycling centers and must be taken to participating stores that collect these goods.

Type of Material

The lower portion of the How2Recycle label will include information on the type of material and the parts of the packaging that can be recycled. For example, let’s say you buy a box of cereal that is sold in a plastic bag inside a cardboard box. If you see a label that says “Plastic Bag,” this means that the instructions on the label should be followed when recycling the plastic bag portion of the packaging. If more than one part of the packaging can be recycled, there will be multiple labels so you know what to do with each part.

It’s important to note that some products will not have How2Recycle labels. If you do not see one of these labels, it’s your responsibility to research how the item should be recycled before tossing it in your recycling bin.