Food Packaging Symbols and What They Mean (UK)
Food packaging symbols are important for several reasons, but what do these food packaging symbols mean?
Modern food packaging comes emblazoned with dozens of symbols. Some may look familiar, but many of these symbols might not mean much to the vast majority of the population.
Consumers need to find out what their food products contain, especially if they have food allergies or intolerances. They also need to know how they should dispose of the packaging once it’s served its purpose, but the symbols on packaging can be confusing.
So that people can make purchases that are right for them, their ethics and their dietary requirements, we’ll explain why each food packaging symbol is used and why it’s important.
The Recycling Symbol
One of the most recognisable symbols on packaging is the Mobius Loop. It’s been in use for decades, and its purpose is to indicate that the packaging material can be recycled. It’s important to note that recycling symbols like the one shown above don’t indicate whether the product or material itself is recycled or uses recycled materials; it simply means most recycling collection systems will accept the packaging.
This type of recycling label sometimes features a percentage figure in the middle. This figure explains how much of the packaging has been made using recycled materials. Generally speaking, the higher the number, the more sustainable the packaging is.
The Green Dot
The Green Dot symbol is a worldwide protected trademark and is used by organisations in 29 countries to show that a financial contribution has been made to a qualified national packaging recovery organisation. Although it’s similar to the recycling symbol above, it doesn’t mean that the packaging is recyclable; it simply means that companies have made financial contributions towards recycling efforts.
The Tidyman Symbol
Perhaps the most well-known food packaging symbol in the world, “The Tidyman”, was invented by Keep Britain Tidy. The ubiquitous logo gives consumers a reminder to be responsible citizens and dispose of packaging thoughtfully after use. Like the Green Dot symbol, it has nothing to do with recycling and doesn’t indicate that the product’s packaging is recyclable.
This seedling symbol on packaging refers to the EU certification for compostable packaging — meaning that packaging can only feature this symbol after formal certification and rigorous testing. The symbol signifies that the packaging passes all criteria set out by European standards and can be composted safely and responsibly, returning to the earth without leaking harmful chemicals.
FSC Certified Paper
Paper-based packaging like eco-friendly void fill is great for the environment, but not all food trays, bags or straws are responsibly sourced. The FSC Certified Paper symbol reassures eco-conscious consumers the wood pulp used to make these kinds of products is sustainably sourced.
Resin Identification Codes
Resin Identification Codes (RICs) are a set of symbols that help businesses and consumers identify the type of plastic resin that’s been used to create the packaging. There are seven Resin Identification Codes, each of which identifies different forms of plastic so that it can be sorted appropriately for recycling purposes. However, it isn’t mandatory to mark plastic with RICs in the UK.
The Fair Trade Certified Mark
The Fair Trade Certified Mark is an easily identifiable and well-trusted symbol. To become certified, companies must work with Fairtrade International to ensure their practices and processes operate to certain standards. The organisation itself focuses on sustainable livelihoods for farmers and workers and protecting the environment.
When businesses become certified to use the Fair Trade mark on their food packaging, consumers should recognise that the company has gone to great lengths to ensure the sustainability of its practices, helping people all over the world have better lives and work under safe and humane conditions.
This packaging symbol does exactly what it says on the tin! It simply indicates whether or not the aluminium packaging in question can be recycled, but it’s a little known fact that aluminium is one of the most recyclable materials on the planet.
Recycling aluminium requires only 5% of the energy used to make the metal itself from raw materials, making it one of the most valuable metals for recycling in the world. This is due to the simple recycling process used to repurpose aluminium packaging like drinks cans.
Dietary Food Symbols for Food Packaging
While the food packaging symbols above help people to understand where there packaging came from and how to dispose of it, dietary food symbols are essential for consumers following a restricted or limited diet, especially those who have food allergies or intolerances.
The Gluten-Free Symbol
The crossed grain symbol is internationally recognised as a gluten-free symbol. It represents products that have gained gluten-free certification, which is highly important for businesses to adopt. Not only is including the gluten-free symbol a necessity for people with gluten intolerance, but it also helps market their products to people who follow a gluten-free diet for other reasons.
The Vegetarian Symbol
This symbol can vary in its design, but it’s generally depicted as a “V” character, sometimes inside a circle or oval shape. This symbol means the food inside the packaging is Vegetarian Society approved. Much like the gluten-free symbol, it’s important for businesses to acquire and make use of this mark on their food packaging to help market their products to vegetarian consumers.
The Vegan Symbol
As vegan diets become increasingly popular, this symbol has seen a dramatic rise in usage. Although the symbol itself can vary, the official vegan trademark confirms to customers that the Vegan Society has independently tested and approved the food product, deeming it 100% vegan-friendly.
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