Products Made With Recycled Materials

Orchard Farm LadderDid you know that a ton of paper made with recycled materials instead of virgin materials saves 7,000 gallons of water, 17 to 31 trees, 4,000 kilowatt hours of electricity, and 60 pounds of air pollutants!?

If you’re saying to yourself, I don’t have the time or access to recycle  sources, well there is hope for your ever enlarging carbon footprint.

You can simply support recycling and buy product made with recycled materials.  Just like purchasing products made by eco-minded companies you can vote with your purchasing power and express your endorsement of sustainable practices by choosing those recycled materials items.

Next time you are at the store, you’ll notice a growing selection of recycled products options: aluminum cans, carpeting, cereal boxes, egg cartons, glass containers,  laundry detergent bottles, motor oil, newspapers, paper towels, paper napkins, ….

There are so many things can be made from recycled content – such as porch decking planks made from recycled milk jugs. The biggest challenge now is that these products are usually more expensive that the mass produced, non–recycled products – simply because the demand and scale just are not there yet.  But with your purchasing support, the price will eventually become more competitive.

Usually advertising and labeling will alert you to this fact about the recycling source.  If not, it only requires a simple flip of the product to look for those keys phrases, like “made from recycled material”.  Now that sounds a lot better than “Made in China” – as far as America’s carbon footprint is concerned anyways. So what qualifies as recycled content? 

If a good has “recycled content”, it can be from pre-consumer or post-consumer material, or both.   Pre-consumer material is waste produced by manufacturers, like scraps and trimmings, that is re-incorporated into new goods.  Post-consumer material is derived from goods that have already been recycled, like office paper, aluminum cans, and plastics. 

This page has the full explanation, and discards some falsehoods about recycled products like that it costs more and is worse in quality.  After all, learning about living green also involves some unlearning too.  One thing we don’t want to recycle is myths. Another thing to keep in mind is the percentage of the good made from recycled content. 

Read: Kitchen Composting Made Easy.

Quite obviously, go with the office paper that is made from 70% recycled material rather than 30% recycled material.  Unless the product is made 100% from recycled material, it must say how much of it is recycled. Just be careful when you see phrases like “40% less waste” because it is ambiguous.  It is much better to see “40% less waste than our previous bottle”. 

Also, definitely be careful when you see vague phrases like “eco-safe” or “environmentally friendly”, because this might not really mean anything.  If a company actually did something green, wouldn’t they want to tell you about it in detail? There are many companies out there manufacturing goods with used materials.  Next time you are out and about at the mall, the grocery store, or a boutique, join this synergy of green action by purchasing some of the many recycled products out there. 

You will be well on your way towards living a sustainable lifestyle, and rewarding green companies for their good behavior.

On one final, somewhat humorous note, you do not need to go as far as this one consumer (below), although you certainly can. 

Here is a letter written to Keebler regarding recycled materials: “Dear Elves; I enjoy your Wheatables crackers, but feel bad about purchasing them. The box makes no mention about recycled content, and the thought of the Keebler Elves chopping down their own forest to make boxes is too tragic for words. Please let me know when Keebler will start using recycled content paperboard in boxes.”

So work on reducing your carbon footprint, by voting with your purchase decisions. On an everyday basis – it will slowly accumulate into a significant personal impact on the environment.  And if you set an example for others who may follow, it will make a big difference in the long run.


About the author

Kenny Frankel

As graduate of the University of Maryland, Kenny has a major in Environmental Politics and Policy, so he's undoubtedly a guy well versed in environmental issues. Now, post college he is a practitioner of sustainable living and employed by solar installation company. We all will have a deeper green perspective after reading his articles because he brings a big picture insight to our everyday purchase decisions and even recycling.  As an early staff writer for Green Blizzard, Kenny covers environmental policy, big-agricultures impact on the environment, solar energy, recycling, and products made from recycled materials.