The birth of an icon

chasingarrowsMost people wouldn’t consider 44 to be a milestone number for celebrations, but we think a shout-out is appropriate to recognize the creation of the symbol that today is associated with everything pertaining to recycling, recyclable and recycled products.

In celebration of the first Earth Day in 1970, the Container Corporation of America sponsored a design contest. Art and design students at colleges and high schools throughout the United States were asked to design a symbol that represented the recycling of paper. The design was to appear on the company’s recycled paperboard products.

The contest winner was Gary Anderson, then a senior at the University of Southern California. Anderson’s concept for the symbol was inspired by a mathematician’s discovery that a strip of paper twisted once and joined at the ends formed a continuous single-edged, one-sided surface: a Möbius strip. The recycling symbol is comprised of three “chasing arrows” that join in a continuous loop, just like the Möbius strip. The three arrows also have significance, each representing a step in the recycling process: collection, manufacturing and purchasing.

The recycling symbol has remained unchanged since 1970, though you find variations to indicate whether an item is recyclable or is made from recycled content.  Its simplicity and concise message have made it a widely recognizable icon.

If you see a recycling symbol and would like more information about what it means, give us a call at 816-474-TEAM. If you want to find out if an item bearing the chasing arrows symbol can be recycled locally, visit

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