You’ve surely seen it before on a laundry detergent bottle label, printed on a ready-made salad bag or stamped onto the container of a thousand other products lining the shelves of grocery and retail stores: A symbol with three “chasing” arrows that form a triangle. It may be green or black. It might have a number between 1 and 7 inside the triangle, which corresponds to the type of plastic resin used to construct it, or have a suggestion about how to recycle.
To the consumer, this symbol conveys the message that this item is recyclable and, for the sake of the planet, ought to be treated accordingly and not dumped into the trash bin. But to environmentalists and waste-reduction advocates, the symbol is, in many cases, a half-truth used by manufacturers to “greenwash” their products.