The Recycled Paper Symbol

The Use of the AFPA Recycling Symbol

Products made from 100% recycled fiber should use either one of the following symbols:

If the paper used is made with less than 100% recycled fiber, the symbol should be accompanied by a legend identifying the total percent of recycled fiber. An appropriate legend might read “XX% total recycled fiber content.”

In 2005, a record 51.5 percent of the paper consumed in the U.S. (51.3 million tons) was recovered for recycling. Paper recovery now averages 346 pounds for each man, woman and child in the United States.

Total U.S. paper and paperboard recovery reached a record 53.5 million tons in 2006. With paper and paperboard consumption at 100.2 million tons, this yielded a recovery rate of 53.4% — up from 33.5% in 1990.

The U.S. EPA defines recycled fiber to include both pre- and post-consumer fiber.

Where did the Recycling Symbol come from?

In 1970, the year of the first Earth Day, the Container Corporation of America (which is now part of Smurfit-Stone Container Corp.), at the time the nation’s largest producer of recycled paperboard, 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, which was judged at the 1970 International Design Conference in Aspen, Colorado, was won by Gary Anderson, at the time a senior at the University of Southern California. His design, 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 we sometimes call the recycling symbol a Mobius loop.

Anderson drew the symbol entirely by hand with pen and ink, without
the benefit of the computer-aided design software available to today’s
designers. He worked out the design over a period of two to three
days, although he had been mulling over the image for some time. Of
the three he submitted, the winning design was the simplest.
Container Corporation of America chose not to trademark the symbol,
but instead left it in the public domain so that others could help spread
the recycling message. For this reason, many permutations of the
original design have been developed over the year

Source: American Forest and Pulp Association

…creative by nature