Studies show that recyclability claims are the most important to consumers because they’re actionable—these claims presumably tell people if they can or can’t recycle an item. But making a recyclable claim is not straightforward. Depending on where an item is sold, it may need to be qualified based on the availability of recycling facilities in that community. To understand if a claim needs to be qualified, follow the FTC’s tiered analysis:
- If recycling for the packaging is available to a substantial majority of consumers or communities where it is sold (60% or more), no qualifying text is required.
- If recycling is available to less than a substantial majority (less than 60%), the claim should be qualified depending on the level of access consumers have. For example:
- Slightly less than a substantial majority. Use this type of statement: “This package may not be recyclable in your area” or “Recycling facilities for this package may not exist in your area.
- Available to only a few consumers. Use this type of statement: “This package is recyclable only in the few communities that have appropriate recycling facilities.”
Companies can also qualify a recyclability claim by stating the actual number of communities where recycling programs are available that accept the packaging, or the percentage of communities or the population to which programs are available.
StopWaste encourages Alameda County businesses to learn about and use the How2Recycle label on their packaging. This voluntary, standardized labeling system was developed to clearly communicate recycling instructions to the U.S. public. See the How2Recycle section of this guide for details.
- DO consider using the How2Recycle labeling system to make clear and accurate claims.
- DO ensure recyclable claims can be substantiated.
- DO qualify recyclable claims if the packaging has both recyclable and non-recyclable components to help consumers understand which portions are recyclable.
- DON’T label a package as recyclable that is made from recyclable material but is not accepted in recycling programs because of its shape, size or some other attribute.
- DON’T use the universal recycling symbol (three chasing arrows) alone, with no qualifying text, unless the packaging is made of 100% recycled materials and is universally recyclable. Where relevant, qualifying text should accompany this symbol.