One of the best-known packaging symbols is the so-called Möbius loop. It is the officially recognised international icon for products capable of being recycled and can be used in a variety of colours and variations. The three arrows are based on the Möbius loop, discovered by the German mathematician August Ferdinand Möbius in the 19th century.
This symbol usually has a number in the middle – a code that provides information on how to recycle the product. 05, for example, means that the material inside the packaging is PP, i.e. polypropylene.
However, the loop only became a recycling symbol in 1970, when it was first used by a 23-year-old engineering student, Gary Anderson. He didn’t know it would be used throughout the world a few decades later. He had originally designed the symbol for a contest run by the Container Corporation of America. The brief for the contestants was to design a symbol for recycled paper. But a few years later, walking off a plane at Amsterdam airport, Anderson was greatly surprised when he suddenly saw the symbol he had designed. And so it happened that, just like the Coca-Cola and Nike logos, this well-known icon can be used worldwide without any IP rights or licence fees.