Understanding packaging symbols is important to a consumer. These coded signs have a lot to say about the product, its contents and disposal. Let us have a look at what packaging symbols mean.
Did You Know?
The universal recycling symbol, which is three folded arrows that form a triangle, was created by Gary Anderson, a student at the University of Southern California in 1970. He created it as part of a contest associated to the very first Earth Day.
Packaging symbols have become an important part of marketing and product identity. Nowadays, you will see these symbols on almost every product. Considering the increasing awareness of consumers, which includes a thorough knowledge of what they are buying, and also where the product would end up after use, manufacturers are diligently conveying all major and necessary information to the consumer through the use of these symbols.
Another major reason for the wide use of symbols on packaging is that products now reach global markets, growing awareness about the environment has also raised the benchmark for awareness when buying any product.
Keeping this in mind, manufacturers from all segments of the market are including information about the product and recycling (environmental awareness) symbols. These symbols are also a guide for consumers to be aware about how the item is going to be recycled.
But how would a layman interpret the meaning of these packaging symbols. Some of the important symbols used on packaging are listed here.
Meaning of Different Packaging Symbols
Cargo and Handling
This symbol us used to convey that the product / commodity inside the box is fragile, which can be damaged. It needs to be handled with care.
Right Side Up
This sign is found on cargo packages. It defines which side of the package should face upward, so that the product inside is not damaged.
Handle With Care
This is another symbol used on packaging, to convey that the package needs to be handled with care.
This sign is usually found on cargo packages. It means to keep the package away from rain or damp conditions.
This symbol is generally found on packages that contain food or drinks. The markings indicate the temperature at which the product should be stored.
Consumer and Product
This symbol, which has the letter Q and a telephone attached to it, means, if you are unhappy with the product, you can ring the specified customer care number.
This symbol is for customer satisfaction. If the consumer is not happy with the same, he/she could return the product to the mentioned address.
It is found on packaging containing edibles. It conveys that the product is suitable for vegetarians.
The letter ‘V’ in the center of the circle also stands for, suitable for vegetarians to consume.
The sign is self-explanatory. This is used on packaging of products that do not contain wheat extracts.
A triangle with an exclamation mark in the center represents an awareness sign. It is usually used to warn about allergies.
This symbol means that more information about the product is provided in the packaging along with the product.
This type of symbol indicates the time until which the product is good for use or consumption.
This symbol also conveys it is suitable for vegetarians.
Disposal and Recycle
We all have seen this symbol on so many products. It means to dispose the item
in an appropriate manner.
Mobius Loop Percentage
This symbol denotes the percentage of recycled material used in that particular product.
A wheelie-bin and a cross over it is a symbol that is found on most packaging that contains electronic products. It means that these should not be disposed in general garbage.
The Green Dot
It symbolizes recycling, but not always. In most European countries, it means that the manufacturer has made a certain contribution towards recycling of the packaging.
It is the international symbol for recycling. It is used to educate and encourage the consumer to recycle the product, rather than throw it in general rubbish.
This is used for glass products like bottles. It advises consumers to dispose glass products in a bottle bank or glass curbside collection.
This symbol is used to motivate people and get them in the action. The heart in the symbol is a mark of the feel-good nature of recycling.
As the name suggests, this symbol means the aluminum used in the product can be recycled.
The European Union manages the scheme which is symbolized by the ‘Ecolabel’. This symbol is used by manufacturers of eco/environment friendly products. It is also used by companies that provide services and products that do not harm the environment. For example, if the product creates less waste, is recyclable, reduces carbon foot-print, etc., it can apply for and use this symbol on its packaging.
This is a certification symbol for products with paper. The paper or board used in the product is made from 75% of genuine waste paper or board fiber. No part of the paper should contain mill-produced waste fiber. The product can thereafter use this mark of the National Association of Paper Merchants (NAPM), on the packaging.
This symbol is found on the packaging of certain metal products. The steel used in the product is suitable for recycling.
PETE / PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate)
Partially recyclable and picked up at most curbside recycling programs.
HDPE (High Density Polyethylene)
This plastic is comparatively safe and is recyclable at curbside programs.
PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride )
This type of plastic is used for bottles and containers. It may not be accepted at all curbside programs, however, some plastic lumber makers may accept it.
LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene)
It refers to soft and flexible plastic, usually found in squeezable bottles, bags, and similar. These products can be recycled at some curbside programs.
This is usually found on products like containers, bottles, caps, and straws. Its recycling value is growing, and most recycling programs accept these products.
Packaging of plastics like disposable cups, plates, and Styrofoam, generally have this label. This type of plastic is comparatively hard to recycle.
This symbol is used on packaging of those products that do not fall in the above categories of plastic. Recycling of these products is difficult, again for obvious reasons, as the exact category of plastic is not clear for the curbside programs to recycle them.
The above is a generalized list of the meaning of symbols found on packaging material. There may be more symbols that are customized for certain products. These should help you interpret and understand what each packaging symbol stands for, and also choose products wisely.