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What Options Do You Have for Recycled Paper?

By: Bill Wortman



When it comes to being green, buying and using recycled paper is near the top of people’s minds. It’s an obvious option, since we can both recycle our own paper usage and then in turn use recycled paper. We see it in action. But what are your options when it comes to using recycled paper?

Types of Recycled Content

Recycled Content: When something is advertised with a certain percentage of “recycled content,” that adds up all the materials that fit into other categories of recycling. It will be some mix of the other categories.
Pre-Consumer Recycled Content. This is paper made using materials that were never actually used in the marketplace. It includes scraps and trimmings of paper from the mills that were never used for anything at all, and it also includes paper products that were never used for their intended purpose, such as returned or unsold magazines and newspapers.Post-Consumer Recycled Content: This category is the most important for anyone looking to be as green as possible. Post-consumer recycled content is made from material that was actually used by consumers and then recycled for reuse. So when you put your newspaper in the recycling bin after reading it, it will eventually go toward post-consumer recycled content. What makes post-consumer content so important is that it directly reduces the amount of paper in landfills.

How Green Should I Be?

So as a consumer, what should you be looking for when you are looking at green options for your business? Remarkably, recycled materials are still only a tiny percentage of all paper sold. And businesses have to weigh environmental issues along with price, brand, and quality. But no matter what you decide, there are plenty of options. In general, always look first at the post-consumer recycled content, because that’s the most important.

Just Green: If you’re looking to take some initial steps toward being more green but also focusing on the best value for your business, look at paper with around 10 percent post-consumer recycled content. This is well below recommendations from environmental groups, but don’t discount the value of even a small step. After all, if everybody just used 10 percent post-consumer content instead of 0 percent, that would make a huge difference! Products with 10 percent post-consumer content are a great way to expand the market for green standards to those hesitant to make a more dramatic change due to those price, brand, and quality concerns mentioned above.

Light Green: If you want to want to prioritize environmentally friendly options, look for paper products that meet or exceed the government standard of 30 percent post-consumer recycled content. There should be plenty of options in this range, and look for choices certified by Green Seal, an independent organization that validates environmental claims from suppliers.

Dark Green: If you’re ready to go all the way, you can find paper that is 100 percent post-consumer recycled content. The quality of recycled paper is always improving, and you can find high-quality materials that are also environmentally friendly, even at the highest standards! And, again, look for that Green Seal certification.
Published: December 18, 2012

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Bill Wortman

As the Chief Business Consultant at BizCoachingOnDemand.com, Bill has over 40 years of business experience. He's held multiple executive-level positions and fulfilled the role of CFO at large, publicly-held (NYSE, NASDAQA, and AMEX) corporations. In addition, he's also been an owner of several successful private ventures in real estate and in the automotive industry.

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