It is common knowledge that recycling helps the environment by diverting waste from landfills. However, dropping that old newspaper into the recycling bin is only the first step along the way to effectively helping our environment. Recycling only matters when consumers purchase products manufactured from recycled content.
Defining Recycled Content
A recycled product is one made totally or partially from reused material or recovered waste. Recovered waste is material that would otherwise have been sent to a landfill if not recycled by a consumer. Products do not have to contain 100 percent recycled materials, but the more the recycled content the better. Recycling can take place either during the manufacturing process or after consumer use; these two branches of recycled content are respectively known as pre-consumer and post-consumer recycled content. » Learn More
Pre-consumer Recycled Content
Pre-consumer waste is the extra material, trimmings and scrap from the manufacturing process that is gathered up and used again to manufacture more products. Thus, pre-consumer recycled content is the material that is recycled before it is ever used by a consumer. For example, paper trimmings and scraps that are reused before ever leaving the paper mill are considered pre-consumer recycled material. This is sometimes considered non-traditional recycling, since it is never actually used and recycled by the consumer.
Post-consumer Recycled Content
The more positive environmental impact occurs from purchasing products made with post-consumer recycled content. Post-consumer waste includes items that have served their intended use for the consumer and have been diverted or recovered before being disposed in a landfill. It is more difficult to separate and collect this waste, but it keeps tons of recyclable material out of landfills.
Buying Post-consumer Recycled Content
Buying products made with recycled content has a number of positive influences on our environment. Purchasing products made with post-consumer recycled content helps to:
- Conserve virgin materials and resources. Recycled materials help save virgin materials from being used to excess.
- Save energy. It takes less energy to recycle old products into new ones than to make new products from virgin resources.
- Reduce pollution. Manufacturing virgin products emits more pollutants into air and water during processing.
- Reduce waste. Recycling and purchasing recycled materials help divert consumer waste from landfills.
- Support recycling programs. Purchasing products made from post-consumer waste helps bolster the market for recycled materials.
Buying products made from post-consumer recycled content diminishes the market for virgin resources in manufacturing processes, helping conserve more energy, saving resources and reducing pollution. Keeping virgin products out of the market also helps strengthen the market for recycled goods. Our sorting and recycling efforts will only be worthwhile if recycling companies exist to sort and reuse our waste.
Check the Label
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ensures that products are properly labeled in order to help customers know exactly what they are purchasing. Be sure to check labels and select products that have high percentages of post-consumer waste, since most manufacturers frequently indicate the percentage of pre- or post-consumer recycled content included in the product.