Sustainably packaged? These quality seals will tell you

From the FSC logo to the recycling symbol – there’s a whole host of quality seals for packaging. They offer guidance for shopping and waste separation by providing quick answers to the following questions: What material is it made from? Was it sustainably produced? Is it recyclable? MPULSE outlines some key labels.

Couscous in a carton
In terms of foils, bottles, cans and the like, METRO relies on the reduce, recycle, renew  trio. The aim is to reduce unnecessary packaging, encourage recycling and make greater use of renewable materials and reusable systems.
👉👉 How do we want to package that?
Carton of milk

What´s it all about?

  • FSC seal
  • PEFC seal
  • Mehrweg’ recycling symbol and recycling codes
  • Blue Angel
  • Recycling symbol and recycling codes
  • METRO symbols for packaging
One packet of cocoa

FSC seal

FSC stands for ‘Forest Stewardship Council’ – an international organisation committed to protecting forests. The FSC seal appears worldwide on products that are manufactured using wood or wood fibres from sustainable forestry, for example packaging in the form of boxes made from paper or cardboard. To achieve FSC certification, forestry operations must adhere to a wide range of ecological, social and economic standards – from occupational safety and health protection to strict stipulations on the use of pesticides in the forest.

PEFC seal

The abbreviation PEFC stands for ‘Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification’. The organisation sees itself as a kind of global technical certification board for forests. The wood in products with the PEFC seal, such as paper packaging, comes from sustainably managed forests. As with the FSC seal, PEFC-certified forest holders must meet various standards, such as the protection of biodiversity. This includes growing mixed woodland, maintaining biotopes and retaining dead trees as habitats for rare species. In Germany alone, around three-quarters of forests are PEFC-certified.


 ‘Mehrweg’ label

This label is reserved for drinks bottles that can be refilled several times via the ‘Mehrweg’ reuse system. Responsibility for awarding the label lies with the Arbeitskreis Mehrweg [Reuse Task Force]  – a collaboration between the drinks industry and environmental and conservation associations. The task force highlights the fact that reusable bottles have a better eco-balance than single-use bottles, which means they impose less of an environmental burden throughout their life cycle from manufacturing to disposal. Since there is no single legal marking for reusable bottles, other labels such as the Blue Angel are also used.

Blue Angel

The Blue Angel has been the Federal Government’s eco-label since 1978 and it identifies a variety of products including returnable bottles and reusable glasses, for example for yoghurts. The reasoning is that reusable usually offers environmental benefits compared to single-use, especially for regional products with short transportation routes. Reusabel systems for takeaway are also marked with the Blue Angel, for example, reusable takeaway coffee cups or meal trays that are used as an environmentally-friendly alternative in the hospitality industry.

The recycling symbol and recycling codes 

The recycling symbol isn’t strictly a quality seal but an internationally recognised, voluntary marking that shows whether packaging can be recycled. The recycling codes look similar to this symbol. These codes consist of a triangle of arrows, together with a number and a letter abbreviation. These abbreviations identify the material and simplify proper waste separation. For example, the number 20 and the abbreviation PAP stand for corrugated cardboard. The codes were originally introduced by the US plastics industry to identify different plastics. The codes don’t guarantee that the packaging must or even can be recycled.

METRO symbols for packaging

In addition to common quality seals like FSC and so on, METRO uses its own internal symbols for its Own Brands packaging. The aim is to use consistent symbols to inform professional customers about the materials and their recyclability, and to promote awareness of sustainable packaging solutions. One example is the ‘plastic-free’ label used on METRO Chef organic lemons. There are also labels like ‘100% recycled plastic’ or ‘PVC free’ that show the content of recycled material in the packaging or that the packaging doesn’t contain polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

METRO packs it sustainably!

In terms of foils, bottles, cans and the like, METRO relies on the reduce, recycle, renew trio. The aim is to reduce unnecessary packaging, encourage recycling and make greater use of renewable materials and reusable systems. From 2018 to 2023 alone, METRO saved more than 3,800 tonnes of plastic own-brand packaging, more than double the intended target. Quality seals also play a significant role in sustainable solutions. By 2030, METRO aims to use only wood, paper and cardboard that are FSC or PEFC-certified or have a recycled content of at least 70% for its own-brand packaging.
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