Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Recycled Office Paper – What Buyers Need To Know About Pre & Post Consumer Recycled Content

Buying printer paper used to be a relatively simple task for most small business owners & consumers. Increasingly though, it is getting much more difficult, and we are met with a huge array of options.
This is even more true for the environmentally-minded buyer who wants to purchase greener office paper and has to evaluate the eco benefits associated with each brand. In particular, it isn’t really clear to many buyers what “recycled content” means and what the best forms of recycled content are.
As such, I’ve put together a brief list highlighting two of the most significant eco attributes associated with recycled copy paper and various other goods. These are the things you should consider when making your purchase:
1) Recycled Content – This is one of the most significant factors to take into account. Whenever you’re buying copy paper, pens, filing folders, etc you should really look to see how much recycled material is in the product. Is it 20% or is it 80%? Normally, products with higher levels of recycled content will cost a bit more, but if you’re a savvy buyer or if you purchase in bulk you can still find really good deals on products with substantial levels of recycled content.
2) Post-Consumer Recycled Material – There are 2 main types of recycled content: post-consumer and pre-consumer. Post-consumer recycled content indicates that the content was used and thrown away (or placed in a recycling container) by a consumer (e.g., you or me) not a business. Pre-consumer recycled content means that the content in the product could have simply been discarded during the manufacturing process (e.g., trimmings from paper while slicing the paper into 8.5″ X 11″ size sheets). Post consumer content is considered to have a larger eco benefit than pre-consumer waste because post consumer waste is much more likely to end up in a landfill when it isn’t recycled.
To say it another way, companies are going to try and reuse all the copy paper trimmings that they can because it saves them money; they’re then going to recycle any remaining paper because they have a monetary incentive to do so; consumers, however, do not have these financial incentives, and thus are far more likely to throw away copy paper that they have used. So by purchasing products with large levels of post consumer content you’re providing more incentives for cities to run efficient curbside recycling programs and in the end providing more incentives for consumers to recycle.
Finally a product which is only tagged as having a certain percentage of “recycled content” (without stating whether it is pre-consumer or post-consumer) is merely stating that they either do not know whether the recycled material is post or pre-consumer or that the product is made from a mix of pre-consumer & post-consumer material and they do not know what the mix is.
The most eco-friendly choice is to use a type of recycled paper that is made of 100% recycled content and if at all possible a very large percent (e.g., 70%, 90%, or 100%) of post consumer recycled content.