Symbols are important for a number of reasons. They are often shorthand for the wide ranging goals of an important cause. A symbol creates an identity for people to rally around. More than anything, a symbol is incorruptible. It stand for something that goes well beyond the life of its creator. Because that’s what a creator does when they create a symbol, they give it to the world. This is one of those stories, this is the story of Gary Dean Anderson and the iconic recycling symbol.
You’ll recognize the recycling symbol almost instantly. The three arrows arching over themselves each pointing to each other to create a triangle. The symbol is imbued with easy grace and movement and gives the viewer a sense of an unbroken cycle. Meant to invoke a Mobius strip, the design is an unbroken surface with one side and one boundary component. Smooth, efficient, and illustrating the importance of a cycle where goods are produced, used, and then reused, the recycling symbol is recognized the world over, but that wasn’t always the case.
As the 1970’s began, a number of people became more concerned about environmental issues. With public awareness holidays like Earth Day popping up, one American company got involved. The Container Corporation of America sponsored an art contest open to art and design students of college and high school age all across the United States. After an intensive look at the many entries, one student’s design emerged, that of University of Southern California student Gary Dean Anderson.
Anderson’s design won the competition and was never copyrighted so it belongs to everyone. And Anderson’s interest in the environment did not end there. To this day Anderson is involved with projects and companies all over the world offering environmental consulting to public and private companies. Most importantly, his symbol lives on. Although he said he didn’t begin to see the symbol in public until ten years after he won the competition–on bins in Europe and not the US–the recycling symbol is now a worldwide reminder to reduce, reuse, and recycle.
The power of a symbol cannot be overstated. The power to inspire, the power to uplift, the power to encourage, the recycling symbol is for everyone, even to those of us in the waste business like Rubbish Please. A potent reminder we all must do our part to preserve the environment and our world.
All you need to know about the recycling symbol: origins, meaning https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recycling_symbol
Recycling icon designed by Freepic