Pre-Consumer vs Post Consumer Waste

Pre-Consumer vs Post Consumer Waste


Waste has different cycles, some of which don’t reach the consumer while others do. Learn the difference between pre-consumer and post consumer waste.

If you’ve purchased a product recently that is said to have been made from recycled materials, it is likely that you would have seen the words “pre-consumer” or “post-consumer” somewhere on the label or product. In fact, it may have even had a percentage tied to it as well.

So what is the difference? Well to get started, when talking about recycled materials - they are usually broken down into 3 different categories -  pre-consumer waste, post-consumer waste, and recycled post-consumer waste. 

What is Pre-Consumer Waste?

Pre-consumer waste is waste that is generated by manufacturers, facilities, or organizations - that doesn’t reach the consumer. Many industries have done their best to be as efficient as possible and reduce pre-consumer waste and unusable raw materials in their business, but unfortunately pre-consumer waste is still a natural byproduct of most industries.

To that point, many companies and industries have become resourceful and found uses to repurpose a lot of pre-consumer waste to make new products. Since pre-consumer waste can range from anything from metal, to food, to paper, to any other virgin material - there is no shortage of products it can be used for.

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What is Post-Consumer Waste?

Post-consumer waste on the other hand is waste that comes to be at the end of the consumer lifecycle. The consumer has used the product for whatever they had set out to do and is looking to get rid of it in some form or another. It should be noted - hopefully, the consumer has exhausted all reuse options at this point - by finding ways to reuse items they are actively helping reduce waste in the environment. This can be something as simple as keeping a glass jar to use as storage for your cereal.

Alas, once the item is discarded it has three potential paths - it will be recycled, sent to a landfill, or incinerated. The negative effect that landfills are having on the environment is pretty well documented, but both landfills and incineration are terrible for the planet. They release harmful gasses and toxins into the atmosphere that directly contribute to global warming.

Making sure post-consumer waste is recycled - and reused as many times as possible - is imperative to preventing pollution. It is not the perfect system, as there are many challenges that come with recycling products, but it is our best route to preventing products from ending up in landfills or incinerators. 

What is Recycled Post-Consumer Waste?

Recycled post-consumer waste are products that have reached the end of their product lifecycle and were already made from recycled materials. Unfortunately, a lot of items cannot be recycled countless times - every material and product has a specific number of times it can be recycled. It is commonly said that many paper items can be recycled up to 7 times.

Which products should you be looking for?

Choosing any products made from recycled materials instead of virgin materials is a great start. If you are looking at two similar products and one is made from pre-consumer waste and the other is from post-consumer waste - we recommend opting for the product made of post-consumer waste.

The reason is that these products are generally at a higher risk of ending up in landfills. As stated above, many industries have become very efficient and creative in finding ways to utilize pre-consumer waste and build it into their businesses so that it is used to create something. 

Post-consumer waste on the other hand has reached the end of its lifecycle and is much more likely to be diverted to a landfill if it is not recycled. So by choosing post-consumer waste products you are directly increasing the demand and helping grow the need for these types of products in the market..

An example of a post-consumer waste (and also post-consumer recycled content) product would be recycled paper towels. You can find that and other sustainable paper products on our website.


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