What does this symbol 51

Recycling code: this is what the symbols on packaging mean

A recycling code can help recycling companies to classify and recycle packaging correctly. Nowadays, sorting and recycling in Germany usually takes place less via the recycling code, but rather using modern technologies such as infrared. For consumers, the code can be helpful in making a purchase decision for items such as plastic tableware or packaging material for food and in separating waste.

What does a recycling code look like?

The code consists of the recycling symbol with:

  • 3 arrows, often green, arranged in a triangle
  • a number in the middle of the symbol that identifies the packaging material
  • an additional abbreviation under the triangle that indicates the exact material type.

Specifying the recycling codes is voluntary.

What do the symbols on the packaging mean?


Code no.Abbreviationdescription

PETPolyethylene terephthalate

HDPEHigh density polyethylene

PVCPolyvinyl chloride

LDPELow density polyethylene



Paper and cardboard

Code no.Abbreviationdescription
PAPCorrugated cardboard
PAPOther cardboard


Wood materials

Code no.Abbreviationdescription


Code no.Abbreviationdescription


Code no.Abbreviationdescription
GLColorless glass
GLGreen glass
GLBrown glass


Code no.Abbreviationdescription
80C / *Paper and cardboard / various metals
81C / *Paper and cardboard / plastic
82C / *Paper and cardboard / aluminum
83C / *Paper and cardboard / tinplate
84C / *Paper and cardboard / plastic / aluminum
85C / *Paper and cardboard / plastic / aluminum / tinplate
90C / *Plastic / aluminum
91C / *Plastic / tinplate
92C / *Plastic / various metals
95C / *Glass / plastic
96C / *Glass / aluminum
97C / *Glass / tinplate
98C / *Glass / various metals

* Abbreviation of the main ingredient

This content was created by the joint editorial team in cooperation with the consumer advice center Schleswig-Holstein for the network of consumer advice centers in Germany.