About Association of New Jersey Recyclers
Buy Recycled – Questions & Answers

Why buy recycled products?

By purchasing recycled products, you are helping to create long-term stable markets for the recyclable materials that are collected from New Jersey homes, businesses and institutions. The purchase of recycled products is crucial to the success of New Jersey's many recycling programs, as well as recycling in general, which has proven to be both an environmental and economic success story.

How do I start a buy-recycled program?

Developing a company policy on buying recycled products is the first step in the process. Doing so will make all other steps easier. Next, put together a committee, representing all operations, to develop the program. Be sure to include staff from different departments to help purchasers and users understand each other's needs and constraints. Then, conduct an assessment of the products that your company buys. This assessment will reveal:

  • Products that currently have recycled content.
  • Products that are not currently purchased with recycled content but could be.

Next, examine your specifications to ensure that they do not unnecessarily hinder the purchase of recycled products. Finally, determine the availability of recycled products that meet your specifications in your area. Contact your current suppliers to find out what products are available and inform him/her that you are interested in procuring these types of products. If your current supplier does not supply recycled-content products, consult national and state directories such as the one found on this CD-ROM and "The Official Recycled Products Guide" (800-267-0707 or www.recyclingmarkets.net) or contact your state or local environmental agency to find out about recycled product distributors in your area. Other sources of information include trade associations, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), especially its WasteWise program (www.epa.gov/wastewise, and the Internet.

What resources are available to help develop a corporate policy statement to promote the purchase of recycled-content products?

The EPA's WasteWise program has sample policy statements available. In addition, WasteWise partners can offer advice through the WasteWise Peer Exchange. The National Recycling Coalition's Buy Recycled Guidebook, available through the WasteWise Helpline, includes suggestions for goal setting and writing corporate policy statements.

How can I work with vendors to increase awareness of buy-recycled purchasing?

Remind your vendors on a routine basis that your company has committed to buying recycled products. In addition to product suppliers, companies can ask other service contractors, such as printers, janitorial service providers, and maintenance contractors, to use recycled products. The National Recycling Coalition's Buy Recycled Guidebook provides a sample notice to vendors that encourages them to supply recycled products.

How can I educate my employees to increase awareness of buy-recycled purchasing?

Promote the program internally through employee newsletters, routine training, or electronic mail. Employee education is necessary to help your employees understand your commitment to the Buy Recycled cause and how they can help ensure that your program is successful. Educated employees can offer suggestions to improve your program and help you purchase quality recycled-content products. The satisfaction of employees who use the products you purchase is key.

How do recycled-content products perform?

In general, recycled-content products perform as well as their virgin counterparts. In some instances, they perform better. You do not need to compromise on quality to purchase recycled products. In many cases, you will not be able to distinguish recycled-content products from virgin products. According to a survey, conducted by the National Recycling Coalition's Buy Recycled Business Alliance (BRBA), 97 percent of those surveyed were pleased with the overall performance of recycled products.

Are recycled products available?

There are more than 4,500 products available with recycled content. While not all of these products may be available in your vicinity, they are accessible in other areas of the country. As more companies demand these products, availability should increase. Some products, such as steel containers or corrugated boxes, are more widely available with recycled content than with virgin content.

Do recycled products cost more?

Recycled products sometimes cost more, sometimes cost less and sometimes cost the same as their virgin counterparts. The price of products, whether virgin or recycled, is affected by many variables, including:

  • Availability and costs of material feedstocks.
  • Energy costs.
  • Distributor mark-up.
  • Transportation charges.
  • Quantity of the item ordered.
  • Whether the product is a common stock item or requires a special order.
  • Geographical location.

Relative prices of recycled products and their comparable virgin products vary. You are encouraged to compare prices between virgin and recycled products and also among the recycled products. Even if one recycled product is more expensive, others may be less expensive.

Can you provide a definition of post-consumer material, pre-consumer material and recycled content?

A "post-consumer" material is a finished product that has been used by the consumer and collected for the purpose of recycling. A "pre-consumer" material is a scrap material generated by a manufacturing process that is collected and reused to make new products. Recycled content is the amount of post-consumer and pre-consumer material used to manufacture a recycled product (expressed as a percentage of the total content).

Recycled Paper: The following addresses the most common questions about recycled paper.

What Kinds of Recycled Paper Are Available?

You can get just about every kind of paper now with recycled content, providing high quality papers for businesses, billing, magazines, catalogs, books, advertising, direct mail and many other uses. Grades available include:

  • letterhead, stationery and envelopes
  • business card
  • brochure papers
  • high quality copy paper
  • offset
  • text and cover
  • book printing papers
  • opaques
  • all grades of coated papers
  • bristols, index, translucent, tag and board, drawing, and specialty papers

Aren't Recycled Papers More Expensive?

In the past, recycled papers often cost considerably more than virgin papers. Today, many grades such as text and cover (often used for letterhead, brochures and publications) and some coated papers are cost-competitive with virgin papers or even cost less. Copier and offset papers still tend to cost somewhat more, but the price differentials are smaller than ever, usually only a few percent.

When there are cost differences, they are primarily caused by many recycled papers being made on smaller paper machines than virgin papers (creating a difference in economies of scale), by virgin paper mills dropping their prices because of vagaries in the market, and by imbalances caused by a newly capitalized and still-developing recycling system vs. a well-established and industrially integrated tree-pulping production system. Additionally, recycled paper incorporates all its costs into the product, including providing an alternative to disposal, and is not rewarded for its significantly lower energy and water use. Virgin paper costs, on the other hand, are masked by generous government timber, energy and water subsidies and do not incorporate responsibility or costs for the product's eventual disposal.

How Can A Buyer Justify Higher Recycled Paper Costs, When They Exist?

  • Recognize that recycled paper's benefits are far greater than simply dollars and allow a price preference. The most common is 10%. Several studies have confirmed that price preferences do not increase paper budgets to the preference limit. Even 10% price preference policies generally yield paper price increases of no more than 2-3% overall. However, some recycled papers need the entire preference while others are less expensive than virgin. Price preferences allow buyers the purchasing room to choose recycled papers even when some grades may be slightly higher-priced than their virgin paper alternatives.
  • Aggressively reduce paper waste, using the resulting paper budget savings to buy recycled paper even when it is more expensive.
  • Apply recycling income and savings, such as payments for collected paper or avoided disposal costs, to funding the difference in costs for recycled paper.
  • Put price differentials into perspective. How much is the actual price difference compared to the total project cost, or total budget, or other expenses? Can you offset higher-priced recycled paper purchases with savings from other types of recycled papers that are less expensive?
  • Take the long view. Paper markets are cyclical and highly dynamic. Sometimes all paper prices are high, other times low. Sometimes market factors affect recycled and virgin papers differently and cause temporary price differences. Experienced paper buyers realize that prices continue to vacillate.

What About the Quality of Recycled Paper?

In the 1980s, recycled paper was often of uneven quality, sometimes appearing tan, gray, or spotted. But today recycled paper is available in all colors, including the brightest whites, and meets the highest technical standards, sometimes even exceeding comparable virgin papers.

In 1998, the U.S. Conference of Mayors conducted a study with leading equipment manufacturers and the Government Printing Office. Over two million sheets were tested for paper feeding, reliability, image quality, toner fixability, smoothness, curl, and other aspects. Results proved that recycled papers with 30% postconsumer content performed just as well as virgin papers and recycled papers with lower postconsumer content.

Commercial printers and copier machine manufacturers today agree that recycled paper is suitable for all their machines. They only require good quality paper, whether recycled or virgin.


The United States Environmental Protection Agency's WasteWise program, www.epa.gov/wastewise

National Recycling Coalition's Buy Recycled Business Alliance, http://www.nrc-recycle.org/brba/

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