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Not all recycled products are created equal

To make sense of paper labels, you should choose paper products that leave the most trees in the forest.

I was shopping at Costco and found two brands of what claimed to be 100 per cent recycled toilet paper. One eco-labelled brand was much more expensive than the bigger name brand. Are all 100 per cent recycled paper products considered equal?
Sacha, North Vancouver

You’re correct in suspecting that not all recycled paper products – from toilet paper to office paper – are created equal. To make sense of paper labels, you should choose paper products that leave the most trees in the forest.

When a claim reads “100 per cent recycled,” the recycled content can come from one of two sources. The best choice is paper products made from 100 per cent post-consumer waste (PCW) because it is made from resources that have already been extracted, reused and kept out of the waste stream. PCW refers paper made from the flyers or envelopes that you’ve recycled. The PCW content in paper products will vary from 10 to 100 per cent; choose the highest!


The less desirable choice is made from pre-consumer waste, or the scraps left over after paper processing – trim from newspapers, printing overruns. It’s still a better choice than paper made from virgin pulp.

Another factor to consider is the bleaching process. The “greenest” option is labelled Processed Chlorine Free (PCF). This is a green logo found on paper products with a minimum of 30 per cent recycled paper content. It’s certified by the Chlorine Free Products Association, and the pulp comes from mills that do not use old growth forest or other virgin pulp. These paper products have not been rebleached with chlorine-containing compounds. The next time you shop for paper products, look for 100 per cent PCW recycled content and PCF. It’s the greenest choice.




David Suzuki Foundation

Lindsay Coulter gives you the straight goods on living green. Send your questions to queenofgreen@metronews.ca. For more great tips, visit The David Suzuki Foundation at davidsuzuki.org.

 
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