Paper Recycling Symbols

You will see the following symbols on many different products, but you may be confused about what each means.

This symbol means that the product or package contains 100% recovered fiber. It is licensed by the 100% Recycled Paperboard Alliance

Recycling symbol

The Mobius loop, which is known as the “chasing arrows” was intended to mean that the product was recyclable, but it is now a generic symbol for recycling. It was never trademarked, so it is in the public domain.  However, the use of the symbol on products or packaging is strictly regulated by the Federal Trade Commission’s Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims (see below).

For more information on using recycling symbols, see these guides:


Did You Know a 100% Recycled Paperboard Manufacturer Developed the Recycling Symbol?

The chasing arrows recycling symbol, which is now used on all types of materials, was originally developed by a company which was a large manufacturer of 100% recycled paperboard. In 1970, the year of the first Earth Day, the Container Corporation of America, a large producer of recycled paperboard that is now part of Smurfit-Stone Container Corporation, sponsored a contest for a design that symbolized the recycling process. The design was to appear on the company’s recycled paperboard products.

The contest generated over 500 entries, which were judged at the 1970 International Design Conference in Aspen, Colorado. The award went to Gary Anderson who was a senior at the University of Southern California. His design, the three chasing arrows, was based on 19th century mathematician August Ferdinand Mobius’ discovery that a strip of paper twisted once over and joined at the tips formed a continuous single-edged, one-sided surface. This is why some people call the recycling symbol a Mobius loop.