Packaging in the News: Recycling Code Arrows to be Phased Out

Posted by Rob Helmke | Tuesday, July 23, 2013 0 Comments


ASTM International recently announced that it's making a change that is both negligibly small and unavoidably huge—a change that could affect literally every plastic manufacturer.  The standards organization has decided to eliminate the three-arrow triangle symbol currently used for the Resin Identification Code (RIC), changing it into a simple, solid triangle. Though the roll out for this new standard promises to be gradual, eventually, all plastic packaging will have to implement the new design. What does it mean for the future of manufacturing? Will the three arrows disappear forever? As we at PI know, a change this big is rarely that simple.

Plastic Disposal Resin Identification CodesEliminating Confusion...

The RIC, which appears on all plastic packaging designs, typically includes a number 1-7 enclosed by the three-arrow triangle. This indicates the type of resin used in the packaging design, which determines processing and potentially recycling. The ASTM determined, however, that the three arrows sign—a symbol commonly associated with recyclability—sends the wrong message. Replacing it with a solid triangle, they say, will eliminate any possible confusion and make it clear that the RIC is strictly for identifying material—not denoting recyclability.

...And Creating Confusion

Despite the small size of the RIC, changing its design means potentially big changes for plastic packaging companies. New product molds will have to be designed with the new triangle logo, and while older molds don't have to be replaced immediately, they'll have to be phased out, creating costs for manufacturers that have to create new molds.

Adding to the confusion, the law may interfere with the ASTM International plan—or at least make it more complicated. In 37 states, plastic packaging companies are required by law to include the RIC on their wares—in some cases, the three-arrow version of the RIC. This means that the new standards will necessitate either a change in state laws or the inclusion of both the old and new RICs on plastic packaging, which may defeat the purpose of the changeover altogether.

ASTM International only recently announced its decision to change RIC logos, so only time will tell how large and complex the impact it makes will be. Every plastic manufacturer should be aware of the changes looming, though, so that they can prepare themselves now.

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Topics: Environment, Plastics