Post-Consumer Waste Paper Products versus Post-Industrial
A recycled-content product is an item that contains recovered materials. Recovered materials are wastes that have been diverted from conventional disposal such as landfills for another use. Recovered materials include both pre-consumer and post-consumer wastes.
Pre-consumer materials are generated by manufacturers and processors, and may consist of scrap, trimmings and other by-products that were never used in the consumer market. Just about all industrial processes generate waste. This pre-consumer waste is produced in large quantities in a relatively small number of locations. This is the complete opposite of post-consumer waste, which generally comes from our homes.
Post-consumer material is an end product that has completed its life cycle as a consumer item and would otherwise have been disposed of as a solid waste. Post-consumer materials include recyclables collected in commercial and residential recycling programs, such as office paper, cardboard, aluminum cans, plastics and metals. This is what most consumers strive to use when they buy paper and other goods made from recycled goods. Even though post-consumer waste is more difficult to separate and collect, it is very important as it keeps materials from going to the landfill.
Using pre-consumer recycled materials is easy in many industries. Using post-consumer recycled materials does not always come easy though. 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 is filling up municipal landfills, environmentalists have been pressing big companies to use more recycled post-consumer stuff in their products. By insisting on packaging with high post-consumer recycled content, you will be helping to increase the market for old newsprint and other tough-to-recycle stuff, possibly saving a few trees and certainly making the management of your town's recycling program a lot more effective.
Recycled-content products may contain some pre-consumer waste, some post-consumer waste or both. A product does not have to contain 100% recovered materials to be considered recycled, but clearly the higher the percentage of recycled content, the greater the amount of waste that is diverted from disposal. EnviroCitizen.org challenges you to always look at the level of post-consumer recycled content in a product or its packaging. It's important that we slow the filling of landfills and begin to recycle everything we can in an attempt to preserve our environment and give the generations of tomorrow a brighter future. Remember, post-consumer is always better than pre-consumer materials.