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Your purchasing decisions have a global impact. Buying products manufactured using recycled material is an important aspect of green purchasing.

Your choices help to diminish the need for raw resources, strengthen local and world markets for the City's recyclables, and close the recycling loop.

NYC has adopted a series of statutes mandating minimum recycled content standards for all government purchasers. For example, NYC agencies are required to purchase certain materials manufactured with a minimum percent of recycled content, such as paper.

Here is what individuals, small business, and corporate buyers need to know when considering recycled-content products.

recycled content
available product types
EPA guidelines
purchasing tips


Recycled Content

When purchasing recycled content products look for labels stating a high percentage of post-consumer content.

  • Post-consumer content is material recovered from a product after it has been used by the consumer. An example of post-consumer content is the plastic from recycled soda bottles.
  • Pre-consumer content is material recovered from the raw industrial process before the product reaches the marketplace. For example, fiber scraps from a carpet manufacturing facility can be collected and reprocessed to create new carpet: this is pre-consumer material.

Also consider the percentage of recycled content a product contains. Recycled content is measured as a percentage of finished product weight, and is not always clearly labeled on the product. While some products may be labeled as containing “recycled content,” the percent and type of recycled content may not be identified, meaning that it could contain anywhere between 1% and 100% pre- and/or post-consumer content.

For example, a product that claims 50% recycled content may have 40% pre-consumer content and just 10% post-consumer content, and a product that just says “recycled content” may contain 1% or less of pre-consumer content.

"Close the loop" by buying products manufactured with a high percentage of post-consumer recycled materials — made from recyclables that were collected from residential and commercial recycling programs. This reduces our reliance on precious virgin resources, and strengthens the markets for recyclables.

The Federal Trade Commission has issued Guides for Environmental Marketing and Labeling for businesses and tips for consumers (FTC links leaving NYCWasteLess) with more detailed information about product labeling.

"Close the loop" by buying products manufactured with a high percentage of post-consumer recycled materials — made from recyclables that were collected from residential and commercial recycling programs. This reduces our reliance on precious virgin resources, and strengthens the markets for recyclables.

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Available Product Types

Today’s recycled products offer excellent quality, and are available at competitive prices, while conserving scarce resources, energy, and water.

Consumers will find a large variety of products are manufactured with recycled content, such as construction material, clothing, accessories, office supplies, packaging, automotive products, furniture, and more. You may be surprised to learn how many recycled-content items your hardware store carries.

Paper is a good example of an easily found, high-quality recycled-content product. Recycled content paper is available in a variety of colors, weights, and styles, and meets the purity and brightness standards that most offices require. Also, printers and office equipment now can easily handle paper made from at least 30% recycled content without any complications. Recycled products offer excellent quality and are available at competitive prices.

Also note that NYC Agencies and many businesses have instituted preferential pricing to allow for purchasing of recycled-content products even if they cost a little more.

ALSO SEE:
helpful links about purchasing 
products and services  

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EPA Guidelines for Recycled Content

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) mandates that federal agencies purchase a certain amount of recycled content products. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issues guidelines specifying a minimum percent of recycled material for a variety of items that are purchased by our federal government. EPA conducts extensive research on the products that they select. The review ensures that the quality and price of these recycled products is comparable to, or better than, their virgin counterparts.

Look for the following products and percentages of recycled-content material as recommended by the EPA in their Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines.

Item

 

Percent of recycled content recommended by the EPA

carpet

 

25-100% post-consumer material

floor tiles

 

90-100% post-consumer material

garden hose

 

60-70% post-consumer material

insulation (fiberglass)

 

20-25% total recycled content

lawn and garden edging

 

30-100% post-consumer material

mulch from paper

 

100% post-consumer material

mulch from paper/wood

 

100% total recycled content

paint

 

20-100% post-consumer material

plastic lumber picnic table

 

50-100% post-consumer material

plastic mats

 

10-100% post-consumer material

recycling bins and plastic containers

 

20-100% post-consumer material

rubber mats

 

75-100% post-consumer material

trash bags

 

10-100% post-consumer material

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Purchasing Tips

  • Look for products made with the highest percentage of post-consumer recycled content. “Post-consumer” refers to materials that consumers used and then recycled, rather than manufacturers’ discards. 
  • When purchasing printing services or paper from an office supply store, make sure that the paper meets or exceeds City Standards for minimum post consumer recycled-content.
  • A wide variety of products are now made with recycled materials, including many items used in offices, landscaping, vehicular maintenance, and construction. For more information on the recommended recycled content for an extensive range of products, visit the Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines  website maintained by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in helpful links about purchasing.

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