In anticipation of America Recycles Day, November 15, the Federal Trade Commission has prepared two brochures -- one for consumers and one for businesses -- that explain some of the common recycling claims and symbols used on a variety of products and packaging, including direct mail.
The goal of America Recycles Day, which is sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Postal Service, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and others, is to increase the purchase of recycled content products and recycling throughout America. The sponsors note that recycling one glass bottle saves enough electricity to light a 100-watt bulb for four hours, and making aluminum from raw materials takes 20 times as much energy as making recycled aluminum. The theme this year is, "If you're not buying recycled, you're not really recycling."
In "Eco-Speak: A User's Guide to the Language of Recycling," the FTC explains that every community has its own recycling programs and suggests consumers check with their local recycling office for information about which types of products are collected for recycling. For example, some city or county governments operate curb-side or drop-alternatives for recycling plastic and glass, while others may recycle only newspapers.
The tip sheet explains that claims that a material is recycled must include the percentage of recycled content, unless it is 100 percent recycled. Also, the tip sheet explains some of the symbols used on consumer packages, including the symbol
that means the product is both recyclable and made of recycled material, unless one or the other is specified. The tip sheet notes that this common recycling symbol should not be confused with
a similar symbol used on plastic packaging. The purpose of this symbol, called the SPI code, is to identify the type of plastic in the package, and does not necessarily mean that the package is recyclable.
In "Tips for Making Environmental Marketing Claims on Mail," the FTC and U.S. Postal Service jointly prepared suggestions for mailers that will help the environment by reducing waste, promoting recycling, and conserving resources. The tips are based on the FTC's Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims and include the following:
Be specific. Avoid implying significant environmental benefit if the benefit is slight.
Be definitive. The claim should specify whether the environmental benefit refers to the mailpiece, its contents or both.
Define environmental symbols. Symbols can help communicate environmental messages, but only if consumers understand what they mean.
Verify claims in advance. Before making environmental claims, mailers should make sure they are correct and substantiated.
Copies of the "Eco-Speak: A User's Guide to the Language of Recycling" and "Tips for Making Environmental Marketing Claims on Mail" are available from the FTC's web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-FTC-HELP (202-382-4357); TDD for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710.