Symbols are a common feature on our everyday products and packaging. Spanning from food allergy symbols, to recycling information, to symbols highlighting safety standards, symbols are often placed on products and packaging to provide important information, indicate consumer rights or to comply with regulations. Differentiated by type of product, some symbols are more commonly associated with particular industries. Many symbols are internationally standardised, allowing for worldwide recognition that adds to the reputation and reliability of a product or manufacturer.

Smart person sorting plastic packaging

Thousands of symbols are used on products and packaging – some are more common than other – with each serving a specific purpose for consumers.


Recycling Symbols

Perhaps one of the most recognised symbols, on-pack recycling labels actually appear in several variations, on all sorts of packaging. Recycling symbols help consumers to understand and identify how different types of packaging can be recycled. The Mobius Loop symbol indicates that an object is capable of being recycled. Other common recycling symbols include the Green Dot, a symbol used in many EU countries to signify that the producer has made a financial contribution towards the recovery and recycling of packaging.  


CE Symbol

The CE symbol is used to guarantee that a product meets European standards. Standing for European Conformity, the CE symbol is mandatory for certain products sold, manufactured, or designed to be sold, within the EEA. The symbol is recognised worldwide and signifies to the customer that the product is ensured to meet European regulations and will work as intended. The CE symbol also ensures a product’s validity to be sold throughout the EEA. It appears on a wide range of products and packaging, from electronic equipment to toys to medical devices. It is not required, however, for chemicals, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and food products.


Food Safe Symbol

The international food safe symbol – a wine glass and fork – is used on products and packaging to inform the consumer that the material is food safe. Important for packaging such as food containers, tupperwares and glasses for beverages, the symbol shows that materials are safe for contact with food and ensures that the container surface material is free from any toxic contaminants.


Hazard Symbols

Hazard symbols are used on packaging to alert consumers to the potential risks associated with that product. They act as a warning for customers to take care when using such products. The flame symbol signifies that a product is flammable. Often used on pressurised cans for products such as hairspray and aerosol sprays, it tells customers that the product should be kept away from naked flames. The exclamation mark symbol tells consumers that a product is potentially harmful or can be an irritant and is often found on household cleaning products like bleach. It can be accompanied by information that the product should not come into contact with skin and eyes as it can cause irritation.


Internationally recognised symbols on products and packaging provide assurances and guarantees to consumers, as well as acting as an easy and trusted source of product information. The next product or packaging you pick up, take a look at what symbols feature – you’ll probably find one of the above!

Picture Source: Envato Elements