"Recycled paper" could mean anything from 2% re-manufactured ends of large paper rolls to 100% true recycled paper. In other words, the label “recycled” means nothing- it is entirely too vague for credibility. Just think, if you manufactured paper that is made with 2% recycled materials, which label would you use: ‘uses 2% recycled material’ or ‘recycled’? The answer is obvious. You would opt for the label that is vague in the hopes that a consumer will assume the best- and most of us do. So, while seeing recycled is a good sign, it is by no mean a great sign. FSC stands for Forest Stewardship Council, an international network existing to promote responsible management of the world's forests. The FSC label identifies products which contain wood from well-managed forests certified in accordance with their rules. These rules ensure that people, wildlife and the environment benefit from the forestry practices. Sounds great, right? And it is. We absolutely need organizations like these which regulate the forests. However, paper that has an FSC label, despite all the fabulous practices, is still coming from trees.
Now here comes the good stuff- PCW. Paper that is labeled 100% PCW (Post Consumer Waste) symbolizes paper that has been previously used, recycled, collected from recycled bins, broken down (back into paper pulp), bleached and then reconstructed into an original form. Believe it or not, paper pulp can have up to five or seven lifecycles. PCW is often labeled in percentages, most often found ranging from 30 to 100. If paper is 100% PCW that means that the entire sheet/carton is on its second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth or possibly seventh (!) lifecycle. If the paper is seventy, fifty or thirty percent PCW, that means that seventy, fifty or thirty percent of the paper pulp used to construct the paper is on its second or greater life cycle.
What is the overall lesson? Don’t let smart marketing fool you. Several packages are now given a “green” look and given labels such as recycled, FSC and PCW. When given the choice, always look and read further; don’t let your eye immediately go to the green and white product. Just because it is made with symbolic colors and has a recycled sign, does not mean it the best option. Read to see what the contents are, especially what the PCW percent is (if any). Always seek out the paper with the highest PCW percentage. You may wonder, what’s the catch? Price. Being responsible (unfortunately) is not the cheapest thing to do, but every little bit helps. If 100% PCW paper isn’t in your budget, go for the fifty or thirty. The generations to come (and I) will thank you.
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