Promoting that paper is recyclable is good at face value because it implicitly says "please recycle me". This is a positive if more people recycle the paper, or rather the telephone bill, when they are done.
This got me thinking. Wait a second. Isn’t all paper recyclable? Couldn’t all companies therefore put a Recyclable sign their paper? Um, yes. All paper can be put in a recycling bin, both virgin paper and recycled paper.
So companies that are using the Recyclable symbol are getting the benefit of seeming environmentally-friendly without taking the essential step. These companies want us to do the work of recycling their envelope, but they are not yet willing to print green.
Recyclable does not equal Recycled. The most eco-friendly move is to print on recycled paper with at least 30-40% post-consumer content. 100% post-consumer is eco rock star. Post-consumer comes from paper that has actually been recycled (second generation like your newspapers and junk mail in the blue bin). Pre-consumer comes from the virgin paper-making process itself, like the holes punched in notebooks or waste from cutting envelopes. Yes way. This was a huge ah-ha moment for me.
Now the Recyclable symbol is a legitimate symbol, as is the Recycled symbol. But they look so darn similar. Recyclable (far left) doesn't have a filled in surrounding circle, and Recycled does? Hmmm, this seems confusing.
The FTC guidelines for the use of environmental marketing claims is an interesting bedtime read.
So I have to conclude that the Recyclable sign on
paper gets an eco-grade of a C. It is positive in that it promotes recycling.
However, it allows a company to seem green without having to do the most
important thing for the planet: print on
recycled paper with a high percentage of post-consumer content.
A reader correctly pointed out that a company might be offering electronic bill pay, which is the most eco-friendly of all. Submit.
Why Recycled Paper Is So Fabulous
For each ton of recycled paper used instead of virgin paper, it reduces total energy consumption by 27%, reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 47%, reduces particulate emissions by 28%, reduces wastewater by 33%, reduces solid waste by 54%, and reduces tree wood use by 100%. Not too shabby. Said another way, 1 ton of recycled paper = 17 trees saved and 7,000 gallons of water saved.
It can be fun to find all of the virgin paper lurking in the corners of the home and office, and then replace with recycled paper. Printing, copying, tissue paper, napkins, paper towels. I like Seventh Generation products, and their tissue boxes are stylish in front of guests too. See the outstanding NRDC Shopper's Guide to Saving Forests.
Kudos to the companies that are printing on recycled paper like Dell and Bank of America. It makes paying my bills just that much more enjoyable. So let's go green and turn that "able" into an "ed".