About the pictogram system

Until recently, communication on waste sorting and treatment differed from country to country, and often from municipality to municipality in the Nordic countries. Through the use of the same waste symbols, citizens in these countries can now receive the same communication on waste sorting and treatment, thereby making it easier for all citizens to sort their waste correctly and so to increase material recycling. Having producers label packaging with these common symbols for waste sorting will also send clear and easy to understand guidance for packaging waste sorting.

The system was developed via collaboration between municipalities and waste companies, 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 about 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 available for anyone, and it works on the Lego brick concept: flexible yet uniform in design. The system is free of charge; citizens or municipalities only cover the expenses for printing of signs, stickers or labels for their own use. This free, non-profit principle is crucial to ensure the widespread adoption and use of the system and to making sure that citizens find the same waste sorting symbols wherever they are – at work, at home, in public places, at the supermarket etc.

Looking Ahead

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

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 tools in their transformation towards a circular economy by enabling better quality and greater quantities of recovered materials. Furthermore, it has a substantial impact on the fulfilment of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Recognition of the Nordic Council of Ministers for enabling the establishment of a Nordic pictogram system and Eupicto

The goal of the Nordic pictogram system-project (August 2020 – 2021) has been, and still is, to achieve correct and increased waste sorting on a Nordic level, through uniform product and waste labeling. This will make a substantial contribution to a sustainable society, a circular economy and the implementation of the global sustainability goals.

In order to establish this system throughout the Nordic countries, there was a need for co-funding. The funding from the Nordic Council of Ministers has enabled the Nordic waste associations to work together in implementing the system. By the support from the Nordic Council of Ministers, the Nordic countries has set a good example of co-operation to achieve a more sustainable society.