Defining Recycled Content

Thousands of companies have sought an environmental marketing edge by advertising the recycled content of their products. Those claims come under the jurisdiction of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which first published definitions for common environmental terms in its Green Guides in 1992. The LEED Rating System offers credit for recycled-content materials, referencing definitions from ISO 14021 (see EBN Vol. 14, No. 2). Those definitions can still leave a lot of gray areas, which manufacturers understandably tend to interpret in their own favor. Third-party certification of recycled content is useful in assuring that claims are true.

Recycled content refers to the portion of materials used in a product that have been diverted from the solid waste stream. If those materials are diverted during the manufacturing process, they are be referred to as pre-consumer recycled content (sometimes referred to as post-industrial). If they are diverted after consumer use, they are post-consumer.

Published November 24, 2008