With the burgeoning green market overtaking every thing from food to cosmetics, the recycling symbol is more widespread than ever. Now found on more than just recycled products and trash containers, those three (often green) arrows grace T-shirts, backpacks, stickers, and pretty much anything you could imagine.
None of this was the case forty years ago, when the now-defunct Container Corporation of America sponsored a contest in preparation of the first ever Earth Day in 1970. As a a large producer of recycled paper, the corporation challenged design students in high schools and colleges across the country to design a universal recycling symbol. The winning entry would enter the public domain and could then be used by any manufacturer who wanted to show a commitment to environmental responsibility.
Gary Anderson, an undergrad studying architecture at the University of Southern California, submitted three variations of his three-arrowed design. The simplest of the bunch (displayed in the accompanying photo) beat five hundred other submissions to take home the $2,500 prize.
In the years since, Anderson has went on to become a well-known architect, while his design has become one of the most recognized symbols in the world.