Mother Earth Living

True Recycling

Get to know your recycling symbols.
By Crissy Trask
March/April 2009
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Packaging marked with this symbol is made from 100 percent recycled paperboard.

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There’s more to recycling than carting overstuffed bins of recyclables to the curb each week. We close the recycling loop when we buy back the material that was recovered from us as remanufactured new products. Supporting recycling, therefore, hinges on our ability to identify products—and packaging—made from recycled materials.

Choose containers and packaging with high recycled content. Typically, aluminum and glass beverage containers and steel cans contain a significant percentage of recycled content. Aluminum cans contain an average of 50 percent recycled content; glass an average of 30 percent; and steel cans contain a minimum of 25 percent recycled content.

Avoid plastic containers and packaging that don’t include statements about recycled content. Plastic containers and packaging generally contain the smallest amount of recycled content when compared with other packaging materials—especially when the plastic comes in contact with food.  According to industry estimates, the recycled content of the
average PET bottle is between 3 and 21 percent.

Look for post-consumer content. Buying products that use post-consumer recycled materials closes the loop on consumer recycling programs. Look for one of the following acronyms printed on labels: PCC (Post Consumer Content), PCW (Post Consumer Waste), PCF (Post Consumer Fiber) or
PCR (Post Consumer Recycled).

Search the Internet using the keyword “recycled.”  Many recycled-content products are available right now, and finding them is easy with the Internet. Type “recycled [insert product]” into any Internet search engine.

Use recycled content product directories. National directories of recycled products help consumers find suppliers and retailers of products made with recycled materials. (See page 69 for resources.)

Get to know your chasing arrows. Products and packaging that display the chasing arrows symbol do not necessarily contain recycled materials.

When used by itself, the chasing arrows symbol indicates that a material is recyclable where facilities exist.

Look for specific claims of recycled content, expressed as a percentage and usually printed underneath or next to the chasing arrows.

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