January 15, 2003

100% Recycled (not)

Category: Environment

Side of a box: Contrary to popular belief, "100% Recycled" means 100% nothing. The legal definition of recycled paper includes scraps and leftovers from the paper manufacturing process, among other things, that have always been thrown back in the machine and re-processed. Same goes for plastic. This has nothing to do with waste products that people leave on the curb, and should therefore not really be thought of as "recycled".

Fortunately, there is another term, "Post-Consumer", which refers to what most people think of as recycled: Material that was actually used by someone, discarded, and then recycled. But, unless you see the phrase Post Consumer on the label of your product, it does not have to contain any actual waste material.

Usually, you'll see something like this: "100% Recycled", then in small letters "15% Post-Consumer content". Frankly, I don't see why 'recycled' should mean anything other than 'post-consumer material' but at least you can now understand the label.

[more information] note - this is the US definition. The UK's is slightly better.

Posted by Nick at January 15, 2003 11:47 AM