- Buy recycled paper with a high post-consumer waste content.
- Buy Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper to ensure that the fibre comes from forests that are sustainably managed.
- Buy tree free paper made from agricultural residue (cotton, hemp, flax, kenaf, etc.).
- Any combination of the above.
Understanding recycled paper
Here are two of the world's most recognizable recycling symbols. Each of the three arrows represents one step in a three-step process that forms the recycling loop. The first step is collection of materials to be recycled. The collected materials are sorted for sale to manufacturing facilities. The manufacturing process is the second arrow in the recycling symbol. The recycled materials are manufactured into new products for sale. The third step is the purchase and used of the products made from the recycled materials. The loop is now complete.
RecycledThis symbol means that the product is made from material that has been used before. If there is no qualifying statement (ex. "60% post consumer recycled content") then symbol means the product is 100% recycled.
RecyclableRecyclable only means that a material or product can be recycled. It does not necessarily contain recycled material.
Recycled content - Content made from reprocessed waste materials. Recycled content is usually measured as a percent of total weight.
Post-consumer content - Material that has completed its life cycle as a consumer item and is reconstituted into post-consumer recycled fibre.
Pre-consumer content - By-products generated after the manufacturing process is completed and then reconstituted into pre-consumer recycled content.
What's more, paper just labelled as "recycled paper" does not necessarily mean it is 100% recycled paper, it could mean anything from 100 percent true recycled paper (great!) to 1 percent re-manufactured ends of large paper rolls (not that much help). Look for the percentage and type of recycled content, which you should find next to the recycled symbol, like this:
50% pre-consumer content
35% post-consumer content
From an ancient forest friendly point of view, the more "post-consumer" recycled content the better.
Recycled vs recyclable
When it comes to buying paper, the "recyclable" symbol does not mean too much since almost all paper is recyclable - so it is important to look for the "recycled" symbol to encourage manufactures to close the loop.
Forest Stewardship Council certified
The FSC logo identifies products that contain wood from responsibly managed forests that have been independently certified according to the rules of the FSC. Wherever you see the logo you can be sure the product is from well-managed forests.
With paper there will probably be a note next to the symbol saying how much of the paper content is FSC certified. As with recycled, the more the better. Any combination of FSC certified, and recycled is also OK. For example: Paper with 60 percent recycled, 40 percent FSC certified content equals 100 percent ancient forest friendly.
These days, not all paper is made from trees. Some paper content comes from agricultural waste (i.e. the parts of the plant that we don't eat), and some comes from crops grown for the purpose of paper production like cotton, hemp, flax or kenaf. If you are lucky enough to find paper made from agricultural waste, great! Paper made from any non-tree source is good for the forests.
Reduce, reuse, recycle
Always keep in mind the recyclers mantra, "reduce, reuse, recycle". If you stick with these three steps, you are doing good by the forests.
- Use an erasable note board instead of paper notes
- Use cloth bags or boxes for lunches instead of paper bags
- Buy products that come without boxes or excess packaging
- Place a 'NO Junk MAIL' sticker on the inside of your postal box
- Use linen towel dispensers or hand dryers instead of paper
- Send holiday greetings electronically over the internet - you can pre-program the receipt date
- Take advantage of libraries
- Reuse large and/or padded envelopes and boxes for mailings - it saves money and shows you care
- Computer paper that's been printed on one side, as scrap paper
- Old phone books and directories
- Buy unbleached, recycled paper products in bulk (to reduce the amount of packaging you buy)
- Newspapers, at your local drop off point or as part of your curbside recycling program (don't have one? lobby your local politicians to start one!)
While you're at it... go for chlorine free paper
Chlorine compounds are still used in some paper mills to bleach paper pulp. Dioxins, produced in the chlorine bleaching process, are a kind of organic persistent organic pollutant, and one of the most dangerous substances known to science.
- Avoid - Elemental chlorine bleached paper - This process creates dioxins and other pollutants.
- Less than great - Elemental Chlorine Free (ECF) - Uses chlorine, but in a way that significantly reduces dioxin in paper production (but does not eliminate it).
- Great - Totally Chlorine Free (TCF) - Uses non-chlorine bleaching (ex. oxygen bleaching) to avoid creating dioxins.
- Just as great - Process Chlorine Free (PCF) - The same as TCF, but the product may contain recycled material, which may have originally been chlorine bleached. Does not add dioxin to the environment.