Buying Recycled Products

Why is it important to buy recycled products? If we don't buy recycled products, there won't be a market for them. Manufacturers assume that consumers prefer things made with new material. That's not true, but we need to show them that they can make money by using recycled materials before they'll support recycling.

What can I buy that's recycled? Lots of things! Paper items like tissue, paper towels, cereal boxes, bags, writing paper, greeting cards and padded envelopes. Other items including motor oil, retread tires, plastic bins, and of course, bottles and cans.

How do I know what's recycled? Look for the recycling symbol with the three arrows rotating clockwise. This tells you that the product is either made with recycled content. or that it's potentially recyclable. Paper companies use the symbol on a dark background to indicate "made from recycled paper" and the symbol with no background means "recyclable". Don't be sidetracked by the term "recyclable", it just means the product can be recycled. You can assume that if a package is simply called "recyclable", it contains no recycled content.

If it says "recycled", how can I be sure it is? You can't always be sure. Some products are made from scraps off the cutting room floor but companies still call it recycled paper. Look for the word "post-consumer" on recycled products; that means it's made from paper that people have already used.

Does all recycled paper look like it's been recycled? Some types of recycled paper are brown or gray because they are unbleached, but there are some types that look just as good as virgin stock.

Where can I buy recycled products? Try the same places you buy regular products. You may not find them yet because the demand for non-recycled products is still higher than the demand for recycled ones. Keep asking though, retailers will get the message eventually.

I've tried to find recycled products but I can't. What can I do? Let store managers and product manufacturers know you want them. Suggest the store carry them, or start its own line of recycled products. If enough people inquire about recycled products, they'll get the picture. Also, encourage the government to recycle- it would greatly contribute to the market for recycled products.

Are recycled products more expensive? Most products are still made with virgin material because recycling is just starting to catch on. The demand for virgin products is still greater than the demand for recycled ones. You might have to pay a little more right now because of this, but experts expect prices to drop as more people buy recycled and demand increases.

The EarthWorks Group. The Recycler's Handbook. EarthWorks Press: Berkeley, CA. 1990. p113-114.

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