Connecting Environment, Economy, and Community

Buying Recycled

Buying Recycled

[sws_frames imageurl=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/bigstock_Buying_Recycled_Products_2020509-300×225.jpg” imageframe=”sws_style1″ borderradius=”0″ imagealign=”sws_right” imagesize=”200″ imagemaxheight=”” lightbox=”” album=”album” video=””] [/sws_frames]Why Buy Recycled?

Often overlooked, buying products made from recycled materials is an important way to “close the loop,” creating a demand for the re-used resources generated from consumer recycling. Buying recycled diminishes the need for virgin feedstock and saves precious natural resources and energy.

What’s Post-consumer Content?

Post-consumer content is material that has been recycled by consumers. Pre-consumer content is manufacturing scrap that is recycled back in to the product. Compare labels and purchase items with post-consumer content product, to create a demand for the materials you recycle.

It’s important to not only buy items that have been recycled, but items that can be recycled in your area. To check that something is recyclable, visit our recycling page or

[sws_frames imageurl=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/bigstock_Woman_Reading_Packet_In_Superm_3915536-300×200.jpg” imageframe=”sws_style1″ borderradius=”0″ imagealign=”sws_right” imagesize=”200″ imagemaxheight=”” lightbox=”” album=”album” video=””] [/sws_frames]Read labels! 

Many items other than those listed here are made from materials that consumers recycle. When you shop, check labels to see if what you are purchasing contains recycled material, or if it is packaged in material that contains recycled content. Also think about whether the item or packaging can be recycled before you buy it, a practice known as “precycling.”

Recycled Content

Products that have recycled content and can be recycled again include:

  • Cardboard packaging that is gray on the inside such as cereal, cracker, and shoe boxes usually contain high post-consumer recycled material.
  • Aluminum cans contain an average of 50 percent recycled material.
  • Glass bottles contain an average of 30 percent recycled material.
  • Bi-metal cans contain an average of 28 percent recycled material.

What products can you buy that have recycled content? They’re far too numerous to list, but here are some examples:

  • Paper Products: Paper towels, bathroom and facial tissue, etc. These products are often made with up to 100 percent post-consumer office paper and cost the same or less than their non-recycled counterparts.
  • Writing paper and envelopes: Most recycled paper looks just like virgin paper. Always check the label for post-consumer recycled content.

Recycled packaging

  • Buy products in glass, the ultimate recyclable. Glass can be broken down and made into glass again, over and over.
  • Trash bags – Many trash bags on the market contain 20 percent post-consumer recycled content plastic.
  • Plastic bottles containing household cleaners, laundry detergent, dishwashing liquid, shampoo and other products can be found with 25 percent or higher post-consumer content.
  • Boxes – Many cardboard and paperboard boxes contain post-consumer recycled content.

Car parts and products

  • Re-refined motor oil – The oil you recycle is re-refined and sold as usable oil.
  • Antifreeze – Recycling avoids discharge of toxic materials into our groundwater.
  • Retreaded tires contain 75 percent post consumer product. For information contact the American Retreader’s Association, 800-426-8835.


Home Supplies

  • Plastic materials such as fences, hoses, patio furniture, rakes, carpets, chairs and mail boxes.
  • Plastic lumber made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE), used in milk jugs and detergent bottles. Plastic lumber can be used for picnic tables, park benches, and other outdoor furnishings.


  • Cellulose – Made from 100 percent recycled newspapers and telephone books.
  • Fiberglass – Contains small amounts of recycled glass.


Resources: Ten Easy Ways to Buy Recycled, by Joel Makower, Tilden Press: Washington, D.C., 1997. The Green Supermarket Shopping Guide, by John F. Wasik, Warner Books, New York, 1993.