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Recycling Terminology

AFF = Ancient Forest Friendly paper is Totally Chlorine Free (TCF) or Processed Chlorine Free (PCF) and contains only the following fibers: post-consumer recycled fiber (PCR), de-inked recycled fiber, agricultural residue or tree free virgin fiber, or Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified virgin fiber.

PCR = Post Consumer Recycled or PCW (Post Consumer Waste) refers to paper that was printed on or used for its intended purpose, put into a recycling bin & then recycled into new paper or products.

PCW = Post Consumer Waste [see above]. Note that the term "fiber" is often used instead of waste.

Pre-Consumer Waste = Paper or scraps left over from manufacturing, converting or trimming in the mill or print house. It may also include unsold magazines & newspapers. Although the paper and scraps are being reused, this paper has never made the journey to the consumer and back again.

Recycled Paper = True recycled content papers are defined as papers containing a minimum of 30% post consumer fiber by weight.

Currently there is no global consensus on what the term "recycled paper" means beyond the fact that it may contain either post or pre-consumer fiber. Just saying that paper is recycled is not enough, as this could vary from 1% to 100%, but not necessarily from post consumer waste paper that has actually been recycled. Look for sheets that provide the breakdown of post consumer waste and pre-consumer waste content. Naturally, papers that are 50-100% PCW (post consumer waste) are more significant environmentally.

FSC certified papers = The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an independent, non-profit organization devoted to encouraging the responsible management of the world's forests. The FSC sets high standards that ensure forestry is practiced in an environmentally responsible, socially beneficial, and economically viable way.

The FSC Logo identifies products which contain wood from well managed forests certified in accordance with the rules of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). For more information contact: www.fsc.org

Of interest to graphic designers or others who spec paper, FSC papers are now readily available in North America from both small, independent paper companies and large paper mills. The FSC logo may have an accompanying note stating how much of the paper content is FSC certified. As with recycled content, the higher the number the better. Look for combinations of FSC certified and recycled paper content. For example: paper with 60% recycled, 40% FSC certified content equals 100% ancient forest friendly.

Alternative or Tree free papers = Think of paper made from tree free sources; roasted java, bananas, cotton rags or recovered denim scraps, agricultural fibers, hemp, flax or kenaf, a member of the hibiscus family.

Soy-based or vegetable based ink = Soy ink contains varying amounts of soybean oil and often replaces petroleum oil, making it lower in volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which react with other atmospheric pollutants to form smog. It is also easier to recycle paper printed with soy-based inks than petroleum-based inks, as the inks are removed more effectively from the paper, resulting in less hazardous waste and reduced treatment costs.

You need to know...

Our nation's preference for pure white paper and the US paper industry's reliance on chlorine for bleaching makes this industry one of the worst water polluters in the world. Chlorinated organic compounds and carcinogenic dioxins are a toxic by-product of chlorine bleaching, and are often leaked into precious waterways, and hence the whole ecosystem.

When you select your paper stock, it is essential to consider the terms or definitions above in combination with how the paper was processed, de-inked or whitened. The Chlorine Free Products Association has introduced the new Totally Chlorine Free (TCF) and Processed Chlorine Free (PCF) Certification Program to companies that produce chlorine free products. When selecting papers for your design or print projects, look for these emblems or certification reserved for both PCF and TCF papers as defined below:

PCF = Processed Chlorine Free is reserved for recycled content papers with a minimum of 30% PCW (post consumer waste). This emblem states that no chlorine or chlorine compounds were used in the papermaking process, how the mill determined post-consumer content, the mill has no current or pending violations, and that the mill does not use old growth forest for any of the virgin pulp.

TCF = Totally Chlorine Free is reserved for virgin fiber papers. TCF papers do not use pulp produced with chlorine or chlorine containing compounds as bleaching agents, the mill has no current or pending violations, and the mill does not use old growth forest for any of the virgin pulp.

For more information about The Chlorine Free Products Association and its innovative certification program, please contact the Chlorine Free Products Association at www.chlorinefreeproducts.org

beware
ECF = Elementally Chlorine Free. This term can be confusing, as chlorine dioxide or chlorine compounds are still used to bleach either recycled or virgin wood pulp in this process. Although this is a cleaner process than chlorine gas bleaching, the chlorine compounds can form dioxins that are carcinogenic and toxic to the environment.


Let the arrows be your guide...

Variations of this world recognized recycling symbol can provide important information at a glance.

The chasing arrow logo with the white outlined arrows means that the package may be recycled where appropriate recycling programs exist. The solid version is a variation of the theme and is often shown in green or other colors.

Additional recycling logo variations:
Arrows within a circle designate that the content is made from recycled materials. This recycling logo should not be used on printed material unless the paper contains a minimum of 30% post consumer waste.

Solid or white arrows in a black circle also indicate that the product contains recycled content. Often it will be accompanied by the symbol and a qualifying statement, for example, "Contains 50% Post Consumer Fiber." When the solid black symbol with white arrows is used alone, it means that the product is 100% recycled.

Since the first recycling symbol was designed, and plastic resin codes were introduced, certain industries have developed unique symbols specific to their industry. For example, industry associations for glass, paperboard, and corrugated materials have all developed, and in some cases trademarked, unique recycling symbols. On plastics, it is used along with a numbering system (1-7) to help designate plastic resins used in the product.
(See the chart below for more details.)

The origin of the arrows...

The origin of the three arrows of recycling are rooted in the very first Earth Day celebration in 1970. In the spring of that year, the Container Corporation of America, a paperboard company, sponsored a nationwide contest for environmentally concerned art and design students to create a design that would symbolize the paper recycling process. Out of more that 500 talented students, University of Southern California student Gary Anderson submitted the winning entry, drawing inspiration from the Möbius strip. His design featured three chasing arrows within a continuous loop.

be in the loop...

The three arrows are symbolic of three steps in the recycling process:

  • separating and collecting recyclable materials
  • processing and manufacturing these materials into new products
  • purchasing and/or using recycled products


ABOP is an acronym for anti-freeze, batteries, oil, and latex paint. An ABOP center is a facility that only accepts these types of household hazardous waste.

Aluminum is a lightweight, silver-white, metallic element that makes up approximately seven percent of the Earth's crust. Aluminum is used in a variety of ways, most commonly in the manufacture of soft drink cans. It can be recycled through curbside collection, buyback centers, or drop-off centers. This includes aluminum cans, pie plates, and aluminum foil.*

Buyback Centers are facilities (with staff or no staff) that accept certain recyclable materials for which there is value. Such centers pay cash, by weight, and/or receive donated materials. In the County of Santa Barbara, the commodities collected include glass, aluminum, bi-metal (tin) cans, scrap metals,
#1 PETE plastics, opaque and transparent
#2 HDPE plastics, cardboard, newspapers, magazines, and junk mail.

Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) is the glass in picture tubes found in televisions, computer monitors, and other video display devices that amplify and focus high-energy electron beams to create an image ultimately seen on the screen. The glass in the CRT contains lead, in order to protect a consumer from exposure to radiation.

Certified Redemption Centers are facilities certified by the California Department of Conservation to accept items covered under California's bottle bill for recycling. The Centers are located at many supermarkets and accept recyclable glass, plastic, and aluminum marked with California Redemption Value (CRV). Each machine accepts a single commodity, refunding the current CRV.

Christmas Tree Recycling is done seasonally, and residents are notified on how to recycle their trees through flyers, posters, and in advertisements in newspapers and on the radio.

Close the Loop is a term used to describe the last and most important step in the recycling process. It refers to the point when a consumer buys a recycled product after it has been put into a recycling program and reprocessed into a new item.*

Compost is a mixture that consists largely of decayed organic matter and is used for fertilizing and conditioning land. It is material produced from a process whereby bacteria in soil is mixed with degradable trash to form an organic fertilizer and soil conditioner.* Composting is the biological decomposition of organic debris such as leaves, grass clippings, fruit and vegetable trimmings, and other organic materials commonly found in municipal waste.

Construction & Demolition Debris (C&D) is material generated during construction, remodeling, repair, cleanup, or demolition operations, including asphalt, concrete, brick, lumber, gypsum wallboard, cardboard, roofing material, ceramic tile, carpeting, plastic pipe, and steel. Much of this material is recyclable.

Corrugated Cardboard is cardboard containing a ridged lining.

Curbside Collection is the process whereby newspaper, aluminum, bimetal (tin) cans, mixed glass, mixed paper (includes any gloss or non-gloss paper such as office paper, magazines, and junk mail), #1 PETE and #2 HDPE plastics, newspaper, paperboard (e.g. cereal boxes) and corrugated cardboard in recycling containers are collected curbside from single-family homes.

Drop-Off Centers accept materials that have been separated. Such centers receive donated materials only and do not pay cash for the materials. In the County of Santa Barbara, the commodities collected at drop-off centers include newspapers, magazines, office paper (white and colored), cardboard, glass, aluminum, bi-metal cans (tin), scrap metals, #1 PETE plastics, and opaque and transparent #2 HDPE plastics.

Electronic Waste (E-waste) encompasses a broad array of electronic devices such as computers, monitors, printers, copiers, fax machines, scanners, copiers, televisions, radios, audio and video cassette recorders, compact disc players, turntables, amplifiers, receivers, speakers, camcorders, cell phones, toasters, hair dryers, and vacuums.

Glass is a hard, brittle, generally transparent or translucent material typically formed from the rapid cooling of liquefied minerals. Most commercial glass is made from a molten mixture of soda, ash, sand, and lime. Glass can be recycled through curbside collection, buyback centers, or drop-off centers.*

Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) is any material discarded from a home or a similar source that is ignitable, corrosive, reactive, or toxic, and therefore, can threaten human or animal health and the environment when improperly discarded. Examples of HHW include used paint, used oil, pool chemicals, cleaning products, and insecticides commonly found in the home.*

Landfill is a facility where municipal solid waste is disposed in a series of compacted layers and the waste is covered daily with soil and other types of materials. Fill areas are carefully prepared to prevent nuisances or public health hazards, and clay and/or synthetic liners are used to prevent releases to groundwater.**

Mulch is ground-up or mixed yard trimmings placed around plants to prevent evaporation of moisture, the freezing of roots, and to nourish the soil.**

Multi-Family Recycling is a system of collecting separated or commingled recyclables at multifamily dwellings with specialized containers and collection equipment to segregate, transport, and unload these materials for processing.

Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) is comprised of everyday items such as product packaging, grass clippings, furniture, clothing, bottles, food scraps, newspapers, appliances, paint, and batteries. Technically, it includes household waste, commercial solid waste, nonhazardous sludge, conditionally exempt small quantity hazardous waste, and industrial solid waste.*

Paper is a material made of pulp from wood, rags, or other fibrous materials that is used for writing, printing, and wrapping.* It can be recycled at the drop-off centers listed in this directory and through curbside collection programs. This includes office paper, colored paper, junk mail, cereal boxes, and cardboard.

Plastic is a material made from petroleum that can be molded, extruded, or cast into various shapes.*
The following chart explains the markings for plastic materials.

Plastic Recycling Guide

Pollution pertains to the contamination of air, soil, or water with harmful substances.*

Post-Consumer Content is material or a product that has been used by consumers and then reused/recycled, as opposed to those scrap materials produced by and then recycled within manufacturing processes (e.g. a newspaper returned to a paper mill recycled into new recycled content paper products). It is material or a product used by the consumer for its original purpose and then discarded. Packaging often lists the percentage of recycled content (e.g. 50 percent) and then the percentage of that which is post-consumer content (e.g. 10 percent).*

Pre-Consumer Content is a term used to describe material that is being reused/recycled before it ever goes to market (e.g. paper scraps from a paper mill floor going back into the next batch of paper). It is waste material generated during the manufacturing process.*

Prohibited Materials are materials that are not allowed in the landfill according to the operational permit specific to each landfill. This could include hazardous waste, construction and demolition debris, or electronic equipment (known as universal waste).

Recyclable is a term used to designate that a product or its package can be recycled.*

Recycled is a term used to describe material that has been separated from the waste stream, reprocessed into a new product (often replacing virgin material), and then brought back to the consumer as a new item.*

Recycled Content is the amount of pre- and post-consumer recovered material introduced as a feedstock in a material production process, usually expressed as a percentage.*

Recycling is a term used to describe a series of activities that includes collecting recyclable materials that would otherwise be considered waste, sorting and processing recyclables into raw materials such as fibers, and manufacturing the raw materials into new products.*

Reuse is a term used to describe a product or item that is used again in the same form and for the same purpose.**

Source Reduction involves the design, manufacture, or use of products and materials to reduce the amount and toxicity of what is thrown away. Practices such as grass cycling (mulch mowing), backyard composting, and two-sided copying of paper are examples of source reduction.*

Telephone Book Recycling is offered when new telephone books are distributed. Residents can include telephone books with their regularly collected commingled recyclables.

Transfer Station is a permanent facility where municipal solid waste is unloaded from collection vehicles and then subsequently transferred (reloaded) onto larger long-distance transport vehicles for shipment to landfills, recycling facilities, or other treatment or disposal facilities. Transfer stations can provide a more convenient disposal site for customers as well. By combining the loads of several individual collection trucks into a single shipment, communities can save money on labor and transportation costs.**

Universal Waste is waste that has specific requirements for handling and managing, but is exempt from being regulated as hazardous waste. In large quantities, universal waste may be harmful to the environment and therefore shall be managed as hazardous waste after arrival at a destination facility (i.e., landfill, transfer station). Wastes known as "universal wastes" include: batteries, thermostats, fluorescent bulbs, cathode ray tube materials, consumer electronics, aerosol cans, and mercury-containing motor vehicle light switches.

Vermicomposting is the process whereby worms feed on slowly decomposing materials (e.g. vegetable scraps) in a controlled environment to produce a nutrient-rich soil amendment.*

Virgin Product is a term describing a product that is made with 100 percent new raw materials and contains no recycled materials.*

Waste Prevention, also known as source reduction, is any action undertaken by an individual or organization to eliminate or reduce the amount or toxicity of materials before they enter the municipal solid waste stream. This goal may be accomplished through the design, manufacture, acquisition, and reuse of materials. This approach ultimately conserves resources, promotes energy efficiency, and reduces pollution.

Yardwaste is "greenwaste" that comes from yards and gardens, and includes such items as grass clippings, small branches, leaves, ivy, and garden waste. Yardwaste can be recycled through curbside collection and at area landfills and transfer stations.

* Definition taken from Earth 911.
** Definition taken from United States Environmental Protection Agency.