The Origin of the Recycling Symbol

The Origin of the Recycling Symbol

The original recycling symbol was designed in 1970 by Gary Anderson, a senior at the University of Southern California as a submission to the International Design Conference as part of a nationwide contest for high school and college students sponsored by the Container Corporation of America. The contest was a result of continuing growth of consumer awareness and environmentalism and a response to the first Earth Day.

The symbol represents a Mobius loop consisting of three-chasing-arrows in the shape of a triangle having round vertices. Each arrow twists and turns itself, and all three arrows chase each other. The symbol is a consummate representation of recycling.

The Mobius loop was discovered in 1858 by August Ferdinand Mobius (1790-1868), a German astronomer and mathematician, and has been considered a mathematical marvel of simplicity, singularity, and continuity ever since.

The Meaning of the Recycle Symbol

Each of the three arrows can represent one step in a three-step process that forms a closed loop, the recycling loop.

The first step represents collection of materials to be recycled. This step takes place when recyclable materials are placed into the curbside recycling bin or taken to a local collection center. The collected materials are cleaned and sorted for reuse.

The manufacturing process is the second arrow in the recycling symbol. The recyclable materials are manufactured into new products for retail or commercial sale.

The third step is the actual purchase and use of the products made from the recycled materials.

The loop is now complete.

Remember the three R's - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle