Common Symbols for waste sorting

The Nordic countries strengthen waste sorting with a Common System of Symbols for waste bins, recycling stations and for packaging.

Until today, waste communication has differed from country to country, and often from municipa- lity to municipality in the Nordic countries. Through uniform waste symbols citizens can now meet the same waste communication, thereby making it easier for all citizens to sort their waste correct- ly and increase material recycling. Having producers label packaging with the common symbols for waste sorting will also send clear and easy to understand guidance for packaging waste sorting.

The development of the system is based on a collaboration between municipalities and waste com- panies, the recycling industry, packaging producers and retailers as well as citizens in the Nordic countries; Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland.

How it works

The system currently consists of almost 100 different pictograms which can be used for waste collected at households and companies - e.g. glass, metal and plastics - and waste collected at recycling centers,
e.g. construction and demolition waste, large electronics and garden waste etc.

The system is easy to understand and navigate. It is built on three core principles. It is free, it is av- ailable for anyone, and it works as a Lego brick concept: flexible yet uniform in design. The system is free of charge, citizens or municipalities are only to cover their expenses for printing of signs, stickers or labels. This free, non-profit principle is crucial for the spreading and adoption of the system – and thus securing that citizens meet the same waste sorting symbols wherever they are – at work, at home, in public places, at the supermarket etc.

Looking Ahead

The waste symbols have been launched in Denmark (2017), Sweden (2020) and Norway (2020). Finland and Iceland are in the process of introducing.

The European Commission wishes to harmonise waste sorting and has proposed to introduce waste sorting symbols as a part of the Circular Economy Action Plan. A joint system of symbols for waste sorting plays a central role in providing the Nordic countries with the necessary tool in the transformation towards a circular economy. Furthermore it has a substantial impact on the fulfil- ment of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.