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We get a lot of questions about use of the recycled/recycling logo.

Your green printer thought it would be a good use of space to explain the various logos and what they actually mean. The mobius loop is the international symbol of recycling that consists of three chasing arrows, twisted to form a triangle. It can widely be seen on bins, drink cans, bottles, and of course paper products.

First, a little history: 34 years ago, a US paperboard company (CCA) wanted a symbol to promote their recycled content. Gary Anderson, a graphic arts student from UCLA, won their design contest for his 3 chasing arrows. His inspiration was a design known as the Mobius strip, devised by a mathematician of the same name, which illustrates a surface that has only 1 side and no end. CCA’s William Lloyd later revised the logo. The plastics industry has added numbers inside the logo to designate the type of plastic used in production of products such as toys and drink bottles. There are currently three predominate versions of the logo used in green printing.

Recycle Icon - Black circle with white recycle arrows inside

Dark Background

If the recycling logo is displayed on a dark background, it means that the product is manufactured by using recycled materials. It also guarantees that the product is made from 100 percent post-consumer waste (waste generated from households, commercial and institutional facilities, with no further propose).

Recycle Icon - Green recycle arrows with percentage inside


A recycling logo which has a percentage sign (%) inside the mobius loop, denotes that the product is made up of the indicated percentage of recycled material. For instance, if the symbol surrounds type that reads 50%, the product claims to contain 50% recycled material.

Recycle Icon - Black recycle arrows

Light Background

The recycling logo that appears on a light background signifies that the entire product is “recyclable”. We are told that this version of the recycling logo was also intended to claim that at least 33% of the population in the distribution area has easy access to collection and drop-off facilities to recycle the product, but we suspect that this requirement is widely ignored by manufacturers. FYI, virtually all paper is recyclable, so this is a pretty weak claim for green printing. You should maintain a healthy skepticism of “green” companies that print on “recyclable” paper.

We hope that this clarifies the proper usage of the logos. We have vector versions of all versions of the logo available for our customers use — just email support and we’ll send them to you. If you are participating in our green printing program, our green rhino symbol will indicate both the recycled content and the use of soy inks in your project.

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