Making sense of paper content…

recyc ppr 2The other day my dear friend, Jenn, contacted me looking for some advice about purchasing paper. Knowing that all of the information spewed on the package of  a simple ream of paper – content percentages, certifications, etc. – can get overwhelming, I decided to share my answer with everyone and clear up the confusion.

It’s first important to understand what all of the potentially confusing terms mean, so here goes…

  • Recycled content – simply means that the paper has been made from some recycled content that has been reprocessed.  The important thing to look for is the percentage.  The claim of “recycled content” can mean that a mere 1% is recycled, so don’t make any assumptions based on the use of these words… you are looking for a quantifiable percentage.
  • Post-consumer – this paper was previously a consumer item that has been recycled into a new post-consumer paper fiber.
  • Pre-consumer – this paper was previously a by-product of paper manufacturing that has been recycled into a new pre-consumer paper fiber.
  • Forest Stewardship  Council (FSC) certified paper – this certification simply assures that the paper is made from new fiber that comes from a sustainably managed forest.  This does not mean it has any recycled content unless it says tree

So, which one do you choose?

Here are my thoughts… choose the paper with the highest percentage of post- and/or pre-consumer content.  Yes, 100% is absolutely the best. You may also find a combination of both, and whether it is post-consumer or pre-consumer, it doesn’t matter… it has been recycled regardless and the only difference is where the recycled content originated.

Given the choice of “50% post-consumer” or “30% post-consumer/30% pre-consumer”, go for the 30/30 blend because the combination actually means that 60% of the content is recycled.  Add the percentages together for the percent of total recycled content.

FSC certified sounds lovely but, in reality, it’s still new paper… meaning trees (albeit from a sustainable forest) have been cut for its production.  However, if you cannot buy 100% recycled content, it is definitely better to choose something with the FSC certification (so you at least know the forest is sustainable) and with at least some percentage of post- or pre-consumer content.

Confused yet? 🙂

Bottom line, it’s the total percentage of recycled content that matters… the higher, the better. If your wallet (or your company’s budget) can afford it, 100% recycled content is 100% the best.

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3 thoughts on “Making sense of paper content…

  1. Thank you, Doe! I just knew you would have the info to help me figure it all out…buying paper made simple by MomGoesGreen. Thanks, again, and HVD to you and yours 🙂

  2. Here’s another, slightly-related tip: If you’re going to a print shop, Kinko’s, Staples CopyCenter, etc for copies, ask them what type of paper they use. (I work at Staples Copy & Print, and we use 50% post-consumer paper unless requested otherwise). Then, if you’re not happy with what they typically use, ask if you can substitute greener paper.
    Staples does sell 100% recycled paper. It’s a little more pricey (and only sold in single or 5-ream cases), but it’s worth it for the Earth and our forests.

  3. Jenn – glad it helped, sweetums!

    Robert – thanks for making another great point! I buy 100% recycled content from OfficeMax (sorry, but it’s much closer to home than Staples! 🙂 ) It is a bit pricier but yes, in my opinion, well worth it!

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