Recycling bins at Zion National Park, Utah. John Elk III/The Image Bank/Getty Images
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Since 1970, the “hunting arrows” symbol has been an iconic marker of recyclability. But now President Joe Biden’s administration is questioning whether the symbol has become misleading.
The symbol was first designed by Gary Andersonwho studied at the University of Southern California and submitted the logo for the International Conference on Design in 1970. It was designed to address Earth Day and the growing awareness of sustainability and the protection of the environment.
The logo features three arrows that “continue” in a triangular loop. The first arrow is meant to represent items collected for recycling, the second arrow represents the transformation of recyclable materials into new materials, and the third loop again represents material consumption.
But today the symbol is used on many materials that are not easily or commonly recycled.
As considered by the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) update its green guides For the first time in more than a decade to combat greenwashing, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has submitted a letter commenting on current greenwashing and recycling systems in the country. He noted that part of the improvements needed for recycling include clearer, more transparent and more accurate labels for consumers.
“Plastics are an important issue that needs to be addressed. Categorizing plastics by resin identification code coupled with arrow symbols does not accurately represent recyclability because many plastics (especially 3-7) have no end markets and are not financially viable to recycle », the EPA said in his letter at the FTC.
The EPA noted that arrow symbols, combined with resin numbers on plastics, have been a major source of consumer confusion, with many people asking for clarification on what can and cannot be recycled, as reported by The Guardian.
In the United States only 23.6% of all municipal solid waste generated is recycled, according to the EPA. While plastic recycling was around 8.7% in 2018, a 2022 report from Beyond Plastics found that post-consumer plastic recycling rates were actually only around 5% to 6%.
“The plastics industry needs to stop lying to the public about recycling plastics. It doesn’t work, it never will, and no false advertising will change that. Instead, we need consumer brand companies and governments to adopt policies that reduce the production, use and disposal of plastics,” said Judith Enck, president of Beyond Plastics and former regional administrator. from the US EPA, said in a press release on the 2022 report.
In recent years, states have already targeted the “chasing arrows” label, with California being the first to restrict logo on items that are not systematically recycled.
In addition to calling for changes to the recycle symbol, the EPA also recommended that the FTC restrict the use of several terms, including biodegradable and degradable, on products that are typically sent to landfills, recycling facilities recycling or incinerators.
In the letter, the EPA wrote “that products labeled with terms such as degradable, biodegradable, etc., should always provide clear instructions to consumers on how to dispose of the product in such a way that it will decomposes safely and quickly.”