How to Use the How2Recycle Label

Components of the How2Recycle Label

The How2Recycle label communicates five types of information. The final label must have elements 1 through 4, and 5, if relevant.

  1. Recyclability of the package
  2. Packaging material
  3. Component type
  4. How2Recycle website
  5. Special instructions (if applicable)


1.  Recyclability

The How2Recycle label always includes one of these four symbols to indicate the package’s recyclability:

Widely Recycled: At least 60% of the U.S. population has access to recycling (curbside and drop-off) for this material or packaging application.

Limited Recycled: Between 20% to 60% of the U.S. population has access to recycling (curbside and drop-off) for this material or packaging.

Not Yet Recycled: Less than 20% of the U.S. population has access to recycling (curbside and drop-off) for this material or packaging.

Store Drop-off: At least 60% of the U.S. population has access to store drop-off recycling programs for this material (for example, groceries accepting plastic bags or polypropylene (PP) containers).

The Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s guidance documents, available to users of the label, provide a Recyclability Reference Table with information on which category designation can be used for common packaging components and materials. The table is based on national data.1

1 SPC has stated that it does not allow “regional deviations” of the label (i.e., recyclability designations based on local data). Additionally, whether the label can be used for unique packaging materials and/or components that are not listed in the Recyclability Reference Table needs to be discussed with SPC.


2 & 3. Packaging Material & Component Type

Below the recyclability symbol, the label states the component material and component type.

4 & 5. Website & Special Instructions

The How2Recycle website must be printed on the label. Also, special instructions should be included for certain packaging types. For example, the label on metal cans can instruct consumers to rinse the can and insert the lid into the can. There are also specific instructions to return bags and films for in-store recycling programs if the bags are clean and dry.


Multi-component Packaging Labeling

The label is designed to provide recycling instructions for all components of the package. For multi-component packaging, you can communicate several recycling messages in one combined label placed on the exterior of the packaging. These instructions are grouped together as seen in this carton/cover/tray example:


Geographic Scope of Label

The label is only valid in the United States at this time; however, the SPC license agreement allows participating companies to use a “US Only” qualifier if they expect the product to be exported. SPC is looking at future expansion of the How2Recycle label to other countries.

A dual language label is available for limited categories of US/Canadian packaging that are widely recycled in both countries, mainly fiber packaging and plastic bottles, as well as a special plastic film label.

Terms of Use

To use the How2Recycle label on packaging, a company must first sign a license agreement with SPC and pay an annual license fee. SPC must approve the label that the company intends to use.  Companies that do not hold a How2Recycle license must not use the label on packaging or for marketing purposes.

More information on How2Recycle membership can be found here.


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