I've heard the term "post-consumer content"; what does it mean?
After a person has finished with an item (milk jug, water bottle, cardboard box, etc.) if that item doesn't get put into the recycling cart, it will go to the landfill. As you know, after you finish that soda or box of cereal, if you place the empty can or box into your recycling (the cart you place at your curb or bring to a community drop-off center), it can be recycled.
If you see the label "post-consumer" on something, then it was made from recycled items that were collected from the recycling that you or a neighbor, friend, family member, have placed into the recycling instead of the trash.
Diverting From Landfills
Purchasing items made from post-consumer recycled content and placing items into your recycling (the cart you place at your curb or bring to a community drop-off center), are two ways you can help divert material from going to the landfill.
Why Don't We Recycle More Items?
This sounds great! However, why don't we recycle more items? It would seem that the more items we recycle then the more post-consumer recycled content material we'll have - and then less goes to the landfill.
To recycle an item there a few things that need to be put into place:
- Finding companies that want the material
For the first step, "collecting," most people have access to recycling. It could be a truck that comes to your house, a community drop-off center, or a plastic bag collection point at a grocery store.
Then comes the second step, the sorting. Sorting can happen in different ways.
Material Recovery Facility (MRF)
Items sorted at the MRF include:
- Metal food/beverage cans
- Plastic bottles and jugs
Sorting at the MRF requires several steps. For example, there are:
- Screens to separate cardboard
- Magnets to capture steel
- Eddy currents to separate aluminum cans
- Optical sorters for plastics
- People to fine tune the sorting process
Once the items have been separated into different types of material, each type of material is baled into a large cube about 3 feet in each direction (height, width, and depth.) As a note, please be sure to recall that a MRF (Material Recovery Facility) is the way recycling facilities are referenced.
At Grocery and Big Box Stores: Plastic Bags & Film Wrap
These grocery stores have special boxes where the bags (and film wrap) are placed. Once the container is filled, the plastic bags are brought to a location that only handles plastic bags/film. These grocery plastic bag/film collections are not brought to a MRF for recycling.
Then comes step three - finding companies that want the sorted bales. These companies take the baled, sorted recyclables to make a new item that will be considered post-consumer recycled content.
There must be demand for products made from post-consumer recycled materials. If consumers request and buy products made from post-consumer content, this will encourage companies to make products from post-consumer recycled content.
Things We Can Do to Help
So, to help increase the benefits and efficiency of recycling, we all need to do a few things:
- Keep the recycling stream clear of contamination. Only put the following into your curbside recycling or community drop-off recycling center:
- Flattened cardboard
- Metal beverage and food cans
- Plastic bottles and jugs
- Make sure your recyclables are clean, empty and not bagged
- Request and buy products made from post-consumer recycled content
Keep in mind, as recycling opportunities develop, ReWorks will share this information with you. Recycling as a process is dynamic and changes with new technologies and markets.