Recycled Products 101

by John Hamlin 6. August 2009 20:16

What is the difference between recycled-content and post-consumer recycled content?

A recycled-content product is an item that contains recovered material.  Recovered materials are wastes that have been diverted from conventional disposal such as landfills for another use.  Recovered materials include both pre-consumer and post-consumer wastes.

Pre-consumer materials are generated by manufacturers and processors, and may consist of scrap, trimmings and other by-products that were never used in the consumer market.

Post-consumer materials is an end product that has completed its life cycle as a consumer item and would otherwise have been disposed of as solid waste.  Post-consumer materials include recyclables collected in commercial and residential recycling programs, such as office paper, cardboard, aluminum cans, plastics and metals.

Recycled content products may contain  some pre-consumer waste, some post-consumer waste or both.   A product does not have to contain 100 percent recovered materials to be considered 'recycled,' but cleary the higher the percentage of recycled content, the greater the amount of waste that is diverted from disposal.  Always look at the level of post-consumer content in a product.

Does the recycling symbol on consumer products mean the item is made from recycled materials or that the item can be recycled?

The recycling logo does not necessarily mean either.  The use of the recycling logo is not regulated by law.  If the label only says recycle or recyclable it may contain no recycled content.  It also may not be possible to recycle that item in your area.

To ensure you are buying a product made from recycled materials check the label for the word that indicate the product is made from recycled materials.  When buying materials, look for labels that indicate the highest percentage of post consumer recycled content.

Recycled product myths

False:  Recycled products are inferior in quality

Recycled products have the same quality, reliability, and dependability.  A 1996 survey by the Buy Recycled Business Alliance asked hundreds of corporate purchasing agents about their satisfaction with recycled content products.  The survey results showed 97% of respondents were pleased with the performance of recycled content products.

False:  Recycled products are hard to find

Thousands of products are now made with some recycled content.  All steel and most glass and aluminum made in the United States has recycled content.  Many paper products, including white printing paper have recycled content.  Clothes, purses, tool boxes, and many other items are also made with recycled materials.

False:  Recycled paper gets stuck in copiers and printers

Technological advances have overcome quality issues, while increased consumer demand is resulting wider variety and availability, and lower prices.  Recycled content paper now share the same printing and performance characteristics as their virgin equivalent.  Recycled paper is available in a wide range of colors, weights, and styles, including the brightest whites.  They also offer the same level of runnability and high quality imaging on copiers, and laser and ink jet printers.

False:  Recycled products cost more

This used to be the case for some materials, but now many recycled products are priced competitively with those made form virgin materials and in some cases are even cheaper.  Demand has lowered prices, and if you continue to purchase products made with recycled materials, this trend will continue.


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