Sustainable Living the PCW Way, You Dig?

The wonder that is Post Consumer Content (PCC) just may be the next thorough addition to your sustainable living practices. Ideas like Cradle to Cradle promote the concept that waste does not exist, and doesn’t need to for that matter. Post consumer waste (PCW) on the one hand is the end product of our consumption. There is a growing contingency of individuals, organizations, and companies that are removing PCW from the waste stream and upcycling it into new goods. This is not to be confused with Pre-consumer Waste (PW), the perceived waste materials leftover from manufacturing and production lines. Confused yet?

Here is the beauty of PCW and PW, they can be upcycled into new and useful things, so waste becomes irrelevant. When this happens we end up with “Post Consumer Content” something you can look for in the products that you buy. But there is a catch, PCC, like many other eco-product indicators, is an unregulated term. Some labels will give you a percentage or detail the items that are upcycled.

When it comes to paper, a bare minimum of 30% PCC should be on your radar. Now there are 100% PCC papers that are cost competitive with bleached paper from virgin resources, so it is an easy choice to upgrade. Of course going paperless in the first place is always a good decision, but sometimes sustainable living calls for paper, and when it does keep the 30% bare minimum in mind. Recycled, or Recycled Content labels are not regulated, so steer clear and go for verified claims that the product is in fact made from all of those items we have been recycling.

Other industries have started to cash in on their own supply chain and the ‘waste’ of others. The flooring industry, playground manufacturers, and creative fashion designers are all integrating product previously categorized as ‘waste’ and turning them into useful, fashionable, and fun things. So keep your eyes out for any upcycling efforts that involve Post Consumer Content.

Now where exactly does this concept come from? Years of civilization, resource scarcity, resourcefulness and a history with sustainable living. Most recently it came from the book Cradle to Cradle written by Michael Braungart and William McDonough. The book is an excellent read that can transform our cradle to grave wastestream, where products have a single purpose and then are disposed of, to a cradle to cradle approach where products are constantly being reused and re-envisioned into something new.

So take a look around you and turn old musty books into picture frames and old wood into new tables with a unique look. Sources like ReadyMade have inspiring do-it-yourself projects. Otherwise, labeling of post consumer content can help jump start your sustainable living habits.

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