EU Guide to Recyclability

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Guide to Recyclability

With several European countries developing their own recycling logos and stipulations, food and beverage companies need to be aware of the conflicts and discrepancies between recycling logos in different European markets.

For recycling strategies to be effective, consumers need to understand how to dispose of packaging correctly. However, at present, there are no harmonised regulations for on-pack information about recycling and recyclability in the EU and UK. Some individual markets have introduced national legislation, but inconsistencies can cause problems for food and beverage companies trading across Europe.


Plastic recycling codes is the answer. The RIC (Resin Identification Code) was created in 1988 to help us understand plastic waste and currently is the most commonly used symbol in the UK.

Each number represents a different material used, what it’s usually used for, and how it’s recycled. It’s a bit like “plastics by numbers”!


This is most commonly used for single-use consumer bottles, e.g. water and soft drinks. It is never recommended to re-use PETE bottles as the construction does not prevent from bacteria production. When recycled the material is often used to make new bottles or can be spun to make fibre e.g. pillow stuffing, carpets etc.

Pete 1 CS Pouches


This is a much harder plastic used for milk jugs, toys, and other hard-wearing plastic products. It’s often labelled as “reusable” as the composition isn’t porous and doesn’t break down in extreme temperature environments. It’s easily recyclable into non-food bottles, plastic lumber, bins etc.

HDPE 2 CS Pouches


LDPE is usually used for light plastic bags, e.g. dry-cleaning garment covers, bread/fruit/veg bags and shrink wrapping. Whilst it’s low-toxicity makes it one of the safer plastics, it’s rarely recycled. It can be transformed into bin-bags and plastic lumber, but it is recommended that consumers find alternative packaging to LDPE as its use is often avoidable.

LDPE4 CS Pouches


Probably the most versatile plastic on the market due to its heat resistance and moisture and chemical barriers. It keeps foodstuffs fresh and is really hardwearing. It’s mainly used on food packaging e.g. yogurts, cereal packets, rope, tape and snack packaging. It’s a product growing in recyclable popularity and can be recycled to create hard-wearing plastic materials such as bins, (broom) handles, cases etc. It was until recently the most popular material used in drink’s straw manufacturing, but many major brands are moving away from plastic straws because of recent environmental media focus.

PP5 CS Pouches


A new generation of plastic compositions come under this “other” category. These include new compostable plastics, Polycarbonates and new bio-based plastics. Examples of this category can be found in baby bottles/cups, food containers, car parts and some water bottles which have a high barrier. Recyclable 7 products are most commonly converted into plastic lumber used in building environments.


Sound complicated?

It is, and the rules can change depending on where you live in Europe or in the UK. Always check locally.

Check Locally

Not only the rules change but also there are no for recycling labelling in the EU at present. This makes it difficult for food and beverage companies to label products effectively and prevent consumers from being well informed on the best way to dispose of packaging. In many cases, consumers do not fully understand which types of food packaging are recyclable. There is also the issue of ‘wishful recycling’ where all packaging is disposed of in recycling bins, resulting in the contamination of recycling streams.

Recycling logos

Logos are widely regarded as a clear and effective way to convey information to consumers, and mandatory recycling logos are emerging to promote and encourage good practice. Several EU member states and the UK have developed their own recycling logo initiatives, but this has led to confusion amongst food and beverage companies who trade in multiple countries.

At Asteria Group we are always available to guide you through the challenges of recycling packaging and labels. Check our Asteria Sustainable Solutions, or contact one of our experts.

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