June 16, 2022

Changing Rules Around the Chasing Arrows

While the “chasing arrows'' or recycling symbol is almost ubiquitously printed on consumer goods today, this symbol may be more confusing than helpful for purchasers. Across the county, Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) are facing recycling contamination issues associated with the use of this logo. Many products that are marked with this logo are not actually recyclable in the location where they reach end-of-life. This is because the funding, technology, and infrastructure at MRFs varies widely, and some locations are not equipped to recycle materials that might be recyclable elsewhere. This issue causes confusion between customers and their county or city recycling program. Materials like plastic films or batteries can reduce the sorting efficiency of the facility and can lead to jams in or damage to sorting machines. California is now the first state to have restricted the use of the recycling symbol. California bill SB 343 has made it a criminal offense to put the recycling symbol on products that are not commonly recyclable according to the state. This new law attempts to reduce the amount of contamination (non-recyclable material) that ends up at the MRFs. Since the introduction of California bill SB 343, states like Oregon and New York have begun to follow in Calofinia’s footsteps with legislation that holds producers accountable for the accuracy of their recycling labeling.  In a recent study “more than two-thirds of the populations [surveyed] incorrectly assumed that any product with the recycling symbol could be recycled” (Ivanova, 2021). Recycling is one of the most confusing processes for consumers who are unaware of its intricacies. With the removal of the recycling logo from products that cannot be proven to be widely recoverable, the consumer’s chance of accidentally contaminating their recycling bin decreases significantly. This legislation could also decrease the residential cost of recycling in California. Currently, high recycling contamination rates slow down MRF processing time per load, cutting into the facility profit margins and causing higher costs to be passed on to residents of MRF’s collection areas (Karidis, 2021). California’s new law makes it easier for citizens to recycle properly, and decreases the amount they need to spend on recycling. As consumer products increase in quantity and diversity, recycling will only become more confusing for buyers. It is therefore important that we have new regulations and methods to help consumers determine the correct way to dispose of items at the end-of-life. Regulators hope that stricter rules and regulations will encourage people to reuse and repair products more often. 

Why this matters for CIRT

As new legislation is introduced and passed it becomes essential for businesses to understand where their product is recyclable and where it is not. With CIRT’s real-time database companies can know month-to-month if rules around their packaging have changed and make an educated labeling decision. For consumers, CIRT’s geo-specific technology allows them to know exactly how to dispose of products and avoid contaminating recycling loads.


Garcia, M. (2021, August 2). That Recycling Symbol Doesn't Always Mean What You Think It Does. KQED. Retrieved June 3, 2022, from 

https://www.kqed.org/news/11883400/bill-aims-to-clarify-which-plastic-products-c an-display-recycling-symbol 

Ivanova, I. (2021, September 14). States take aim at ubiquitous "chasing arrow" symbol on products that aren't recycled. CBS News. Retrieved June 3, 2022, from 

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/recycling-symbol-false-advertising-california-oreg on-new-york/ 

Karidis, A. (2021, October 5). Why Industry and Government Want to Change the Rules Around a Universal Recycling Symbol. Waste360. Retrieved June 3, 2022, from https://www.waste360.com/legislation-regulation/why-industry-and-government-w ant-change-rules-around-universal-recycling