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The Recycling Loop

The three recycling arrows is the universal symbol of recycling and printed on millions of products that can be recycled, or have been made from recycled content.  Each arrow in the recycling logo represents one step in the three step process that completes the recycling loop.

The first step is collection.  This is when you put your recyclable materials into your curbside recycling bin.  The collected materials are then processed and sold to manufacturing facilities, such as steel, paper and glass mills

The manufacturing process is represented in the second arrow.  The recyclable materials are converted into new products and shipped to stores across the country to be placed on shelves as new consumer goods, for example:

  • Paper and cardboard are turned into cereal and cracker boxes, book covers, and game boards at a recycling paper mill in Fitchburg.
  • Glass bottles and jars are melted and used to make new containers in facilities such as St. Gobain Containers in Milford.
  • Milk jugs, detergent bottles, and other #2 plastics become landscaping timbers and whiskey barrel planters made by Smartware Products in Leominster.


Be careful!  The symbol can be misleading.  It's not a recycling stamp, even though the graphic is clearly slated towards recycling.  It's a "resin recycling code", which tells you what kind of plastic you've got.   The recycling symbol does not necessarily mean that a product is made with recycled content or that it can be recycled in the city’s curbside collection program.  Many plastic products are coded with a recycling symbol, indicating that somewhere they may be recyclable, but not necessarily accepted in our curbside program, for example:

Codes 1 and 2 (milk bottles and soda bottles) are easily recycled.  The other codes usually aren't.  Styrofoam (technically, "expanded polystyrene foam"); is code 6.  You can't recycle it in the sense of reducing it to constituent parts and making something new out of it, the way you can with codes 1 and 2, therefore even though it is stamped #6 it is not accepted in the curbside program . 

The third stop is where you, the consumer, purchase products made with recycled content. 

  “Buy Recycled” Myths:  Here are four common myths and misconceptions about recycled products”

  • Recycled products are hard to find.  This used to be true, but no longer.  From the neighborhood grocery store to national retailers, stores sell thousands of products made from or packaged in recycled content material.
  • Recycled paper isn’t as good as non-recycled paper.  Recycled content papers now share the same printing and performance characteristics as their “virgin” equivalent.  Recycled paper no longer looks different.  You can now find recycled content paper with the same whiteness and brightness as virgin papers.  They also offer the same level of performance on copiers, and laser and ink jet printers.
  • Recycled products cost more.  This used to be the case for some materials, but times have changed.  Many recycled products are priced competitively with their non-recycled counterparts.  In fact, some may be less expensive.
  • Recycled products are inferior in quality.  This is simply not true.  Recycled products have the same quality, reliability, and dependability.  A 1996 survey by the Buy Recycled Business Alliance asked hundreds of corporate purchasing agents about their satisfaction with recycled content products.  The survey results showed that 97% of respondents were pleased with the performance of recycled content products.

 When you “Buy Recycled” you complete the recycling loop!

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