Most Americans help the recycling effort by putting materials in their recycling bin or taking them to a reccyling drop-off center. But many people don't realize that another important step to keep recycling working is to buy products made from recycled materials. By purchasing products with recycled content, you are doing your part to help maintain market demand for recyclables and ensuring the continuation of recycling programs everywhere. If consumers purchase more products with recycled content, manufacturers will continue to use it in their products and expand the usage to even more products.
Do you know why the recycling symbol has three chasing arrows? Each arrow represents one step in the three step process that completes the recycling loop.
- The first arrow is the collection step. This is when you put your recyclable materials into your curbside recycling bin or take them to a local drop-off center. The collected materials are then prepared to be marketed and are sold to a manufacturing facility.
- The manufacturing process is the second arrow in the recycling symbol. The recyclable materials are converted into new products and shipped to stores across the country to be placed on shelves as new consumer goods.
- The third arrow represents the step where you, the consumer, purchase products made with recycled content.
When you "Buy Recycled," you complete the recycling loop.
Don't let the symbols deceive you. The 'chasing arrows' recycling symbol does not necessarily mean that a product is made with recycled content or can be recycled in your community. It may just be there as a reminder for you to recycle. So read the label carefully for specific information on recycled content.
Some types of materials are the "Safe Bets" when it comes to buying recycled. These items always have a significant percentage of recycled content. For all other materials, you have to read the label to see if the product has any recycled content. These four materials always have a significant amount of recycled content even though many such products are not labeled 'recycled.'
Other products may or may not be made with any recycled content, so be sure to read the labels. Look for the highest percentage of "post consumer recycled content" you can find. (Post-consumer is the material consumers and businesses recycle; it doesn't include the manufacturer's waste.)
- Steel including food cans, cars, appliances, bicycles, furniture, nails...anything made with steel.
- Aluminum, including beverage cans.
- Glass bottles and jars.
- Molded pulp containers, including gray or brown cardboard egg cartons, fruit trays and flower boxes.
- Paper Products - cereal, cake mix and cracker boxes, facial tissues, toilet paper, paper towels, napkins, corrugated cardboard boxes, writing paper, greeting cards, copier and printer paper, and office paper products.
- Plastic Bottles - bottles and jugs containing liquid laundry detergent, dishwashing liquids, shampoos, and household cleaners.
- And many more products found in grocery stores, hardware stores, office products stores, home shopping catalogs, clothing stores, and shopping centers. Other products made from recycled materials include: re-refined motor oil, fiberfill for sleeping bags, carpet, shoes, pencils, recycling bins, clothing, building insulation, wallboard, tiles, and many more.
Read the labels!
Businesses can also "Buy Recycled." Because of the tremendous buying power of businesses, institutions, and government agencies, these organizations send a message to manufacturers based on the products they choose. When businesses "Buy Recycled" they assure manufacturers that a consistent, long-term demand exists for the recycled products.
Recycled Content Products and Packaging You Can Buy
- Office Equipment and Supplies
- Packing and Shipping Products
- corrugated containers
- shipping mailers
- polystyrene peanuts
- air bubble cushioning material
- Building and Construction Materials
- plastic lumber
steel framing for construction
aluminum gutters, down spouts, siding
These are only a few examplesof items that may have recycled content; hundreds more are available.
- Clothing and Accessories
- clothes made from recycled plastic
- soda bottles
- recycled cotton tennis shoes
- steel food cans
- glass bottles and jars
- food product boxes
- cereal, cookie, and cracker boxes
- egg cartons
- laundry detergent bottles
- aluminum beverage cans
- re-refined motor oil
- retread tires
- used parts
- cars (the average automobile has 44 percent recycled steel content)
- Home Furnishing and Decorating
- decorating accessories
- door mats
- steel appliances
- Gardening and Yard Supplies
- patio furniture
- Recreation and Sporting Goods
- camping and hiking equipment
- golf accessories
- recreation mats
- playground equipment
- boating supplies
- Toys and Gifts
- bicycles (contain recycled steel)
- recycled wrapping paper
- greeting cards
So shop smart, buy recycled.