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Recycling: How to talk the talk

Post-consumer materials: Used materials that have been purchased, used and collected in a curbside, drop-off or office recycling program. Some examples are office paper, newspaper, glass bottles and aluminum cans.

Pre-consumer materials: Material generated by the manufacturing process such as trimmings, damaged or obsolete products, and overruns.

Recovered materials: A broad term referring to materials recovered or diverted from the landfill or incinerator for use in an original manufacturing process. The term can include pre-consumer and post-consumer materials.

Recycled: Simply means that a product contains some recovered materials. It does not mean that a product contains 100 percent recovered materials or that a product contains post-consumer materials.

Remanufacturing: The repairing or restoring of used products to a like-new condition. Commonly remanufactured items include furniture, toner cartridges, computers, photocopiers and automotive tires.

What do those symbols mean?

The standard recycling symbol has three chasing arrows, each representing one step in the recycling loop: collection, manufacturing and purchasing. The symbol by itself can indicate that a product or package is recyclable, contains recycled materials or both. It can be used without qualification only if the product or package is made entirely from recycled material and is commonly recyclable. Otherwise the label should specify the percentage of recycled content.

This symbol on the bottom of a plastic container identifies the type of plastic used in the product or package. It can help you determine whether the product or package can be recycled in your local recycling program. However, it is not a claim for recyclability or recycled content as long as it is on the bottom of the item.

More recycling stories:
Recycling: How to talk the talk>
How to buy green at Michigan>
Buying green completes recycling loop>
New and improved BuyGreen Web site to come online soon>

More stories