What is “post-consumer recycled”?
Once a material
or finished product has served its intended use and has been diverted
or recovered from waste destined for disposal, it is then considered
“post-consumer.” Having completed its life as a consumer item, it can
then be recycled as such. This differs from “pre-consumer” or
“post-industrial” waste, which is generated by industrial or
Post-consumer recycled starts with our waste
about all industrial processes generate waste; the paper and printing
industries, for example, recycle ends of paper rolls, misprints, scraps
from trimming, etc. This pre-consumer waste is produced in large
quantities in a relatively small number of locations; this is the polar
opposite of post-consumer waste, which generally comes from our homes.
As such, post-consumer waste is more difficult to separate and collect,
but very important as it keeps tons of material from going to the
landfill.So, where are you likely to find this stuff? Read on for more
about recycled materials in industry and products
Recycled materials in big industry
pre-consumer recycled materials presents no great challenge in many
industries. Using post-consumer recycled materials often does. Many
local recycling programs run into trouble for just that reason: there is
no market for what they collect. Since post-consumer waste is what’s
filling up municipal landfills,
environmental advocates have been pressing big companies to use more
recycled post-consumer stuff in their products. For example, to show its
compliance, an outfit like McDonald’s may say its Big Mac cartons are
“40% recycled paper (15% post-consumer),” the 15 percent referring to
the old newspapers and the like that you contributed to your local
recycling program. By insisting on packaging with high post-consumer
recycled content, you’ll be helping to increase the market for old
newsprint and other tough-to-recycle stuff, possibly saving a few trees
and certainly making the manager of your town’s recycling program a lot
Creating new from old: “post-consumer recycled” into products
Lots of interesting products these days make clever use of PCR materials, from high-concept furniture, to more common items like clothing and magazines. Green building products like interior wall paint and countertops
have also proven to be popular and useful destinations for
post-consumer recycling, though paper and packaging remain the most
widely-used and recognizable ways to incorporate post-consumer materials
into our daily lives, and that’s a good thing.
The realities of recycling
In spite of wide-spread adoption of recycling programs in
corporations, cities and schools, filling bins with paper and plastic
disposables does little good because the demand created through the
purchase of post-consumer recycled content products is still
relatively low. Your local elementary school implementing a recycling
program provides journalists with that wonderful “feel good” story.
What journalists seldom show is that a significant percentage of
recycled material is either burned for its BTU (heat, as measured in
British Thermal Units) value or taken to a landfill, simply because it
has no hope of becoming resurrected as something new – unless of course,
we buy products made from those recovered materials.
According to the American Forest & Paper Association Web site, in
2007, 56% of the paper consumed in the U.S. was recovered for
recycling. The figure equals nearly 360 pounds for every person in the
United States. However, we have a long way to go. For example, 90% of paper used in offices contains no recycled content. And just
over 36% of the fiber used to make new paper products in the
United States comes from recycled sources.
Though recycling numbers are up significantly from the 1990s, we
clearly have a long way to go. Products made from recycled content
have improved dramatically in the last ten years. Again, paper made
from 100% PCR content performs every bit as
well as paper made from virgin material. In addition to saving our
natural resources, we can reduce the amount of energy required to
produce new paper and subsequently reduce the amount of emissions
without sacrificing quality. The relatively low usage of office
products made from post-consumer recycled content is even more
disappointing when you consider that much of the paper that employees
use in an office travels a distance of less than 25 feet in its
Ten years ago, paper made from just 50% post-consumer material was considered environmentally responsible. Now,
we have products made completely from post-consumer material (100% PCR) that are indistinguishable from virgin material papers.
When it comes to products made from recycled content, most of us think
of copy paper. You may not be aware of the array of environmentally
responsible items available. Environmentally friendly products encompass far more than copy paper. Some of things you can buy:
In part, we have products that are more eco-friendly because
consumers and businesses have expressed an interest in these items.
Yet, we should consider our population is expected to reach 9 billion in
less than 50 years, and our natural resources will continue to
diminish; therefore, simply doing the minimum in regards to our
environment is far from an adequate or sufficient measure in the 21st
century. We will eventually reach the point where certain consumables
are too expensive to produce, or we will even run out of the natural
resources required to produce them. Therefore, a consciousness of how
our consumption in the offices and buildings we occupy impacts the
environment—is essential. If we don’t manage our resources wisely, now,
the day will come when we have no choice.
Demand is low for environmentally responsible products because
consumers and corporations are always looking for the lowest price.
What many don’t realize, buying products made from virgin
material has unseen costs. For example, taxpayers subsidize the forest
industry to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars each year to
build access roads and cut down trees in our national forests.
Additionally, if chlorine used to bleach paper contaminates our water
supply, taxpayers, pick up the tab to clean up the mess, or we pay the
price for chlorine’s effects on health through our degraded health,
associated health-care costs and increased insurance premiums.
Live for Tomorrow’s new products are about making choices the right choices. Choicing ingredients which are not harmful to you or the environment. And giving you options to reduce by re-using. Our packaging is designed to be reusable and recyclable.