"Everything which would ordinarily go into the waste paper basket after use"

The recycled label

Recycle label

What does this mean? At first glance, you might think it is a self-referential label, a selfie label, a label which exists for the sole purpose of telling us what it is.

That’s not as absurd as it sounds (well, maybe it is…). I once saw a poster which simply had the word GREEN printed on it – yes, in green lettering – being used to promote a company’s environmental credentials, such as they were. It’s like a form of synesthesia in which both the sensory and semantic perception of the word become identical.

This label, as it stands, strays into similar territory with a circular graphic that functions simply to evoke what it is i.e. a label made from recycled material. It exists merely in order to advertise the means of its own existence, as if the sole purpose of my life was to wander around saying ‘I am 37.2 trillion cells’.

Of course, this changes if the label is attached to a different referent, in this case an object which was, in part, made from recycled material. Then it makes perfect sense.

It also underscores the meaningless of many environmental labels and how easy it is for somebody to put together a couple of green arrows for marketing purposes. It’s something that drives environmentalists crazy – so-called green-washing – whereby any greeny blobby graphic can be used to promote a feel-good environmental message without any real basis in fact.

shredded paper