The Truth About Recycling Symbols


We see the recycling symbol with the three chasing arrows on something and think — Score! That must go in the recycling, right?

Not So Fast

Just because it has recycling symbols does not mean you can recycle it. The symbol can mean a variety of things from letting you know a product is made of recycled material to indicating it can be recycled somewhere in the world.

When determining what can and cannot be tossed in the recycling bin, unfortunately, we cannot rely on a symbol. We must keep in mind that a product’s recyclability is based on where we live, market forces and the capacity of our recycling center. 

What can be recycled in a large city, isn’t necessarily going to be the same as what can be recycled in a small town. While this makes it harder for us as consumers to know what is and isn’t recyclable, in the City of Stockton we can rely on our recycling guide to remind us what goes in the recycling and what stays out. To learn more about how to use your recycling guide, read more here

The Numbers in Recycling

OK, so not everything that has the recycling symbol can be recycled. Got it. 

But what about those numbers inside of the recycling symbol — what do those mean, anyway? 

Known as resin identification codes, those numbers range from 1-7 and help identify the type of plastic that makes up the product. For example, #1 means PET — a common type of plastic used for most beverage bottles. Each number corresponds to a different type of plastic and will tell you more about a product’s chemical properties and usage capabilities — but unfortunately, they will not tell you whether that product is accepted in your recycling bin. 

Instead of relying on the resin code, check out our page of recyclable items to see exactly what you can recycle.