Sustainable Procurement

When considering purchasing “green” disposable items, please follow these recommendations:

Do purchase items with a high “post-consumer recycled content.” Some items that call themselves ‘recycled-content’ only contain material recycled at the factory, a process that has been done for years and does not include material recycled through standard recycling programs. ‘Post-consumer’ recycled content refers to the amount of the product made from material recycled through standard recycling programs (i.e. U-M’s program). If a product only states that it includes ‘pre-consumer’ or ‘post-industrial’ recycled content, pass on it for a product with ‘post-consumer’ recycled content.

Don’t purchase compostable disposables without ensuring that you have a way to compost them. Compostable items are only good for the environment if they are placed in a compost bin or composted in some other way.

Do purchase compostable plastic items that meet the ASTM D6400 or D6868 standards or are BPI-certified. Any compostable plastic manufacturer can tell you if their product meets this standard or not. Products meeting this standard will compost in most programs. Products that do not meet this standard have not been tested to ensure that they will compost.

Don’t purchase items that say they are “biodegradable” if you want to compost them. Biodegradability is not synonymous with compostability. If you want to compost your disposable, ensure that the product is “compostable,” not “biodegradable.”

Don’t rely on the vendor to tell you if a product is recyclable or not. Whether something is recyclable or not is dependent upon the markets available to sell that material to. If there is not a market in an area for a recycled material, then it is not recyclable. Before purchasing a product based upon the vendor’s assertions that it’s recyclable, please check with the U-M Waste Reduction & Recycling Office at

ASTM D6400 A standard for compostable plastics. Any compostable plastic item purchased should meet this standard.
Biodegradable Capable of being decomposed. Not to be confused with compostable. If your goal is to compost your disposables, do not purchase biodegradable products.
Compostable  Can be placed in a compost bin or taken to a compost site. Has the ability to break down, aerobically or anaerobically, into a nutrient-rich soil amendment. Not to be confused with biodegradable. If you wish to compost your disposables, the items you purchase must be compostable.
 Composting  The purposeful biodegradation of organic matter, such as yard and food waste.
Post-consumer recycled content The portion of the material used to make an item that is from material recycled by the consumer and not the factory. A higher post-consumer recycled content is environmentally-preferable.
 Pre-consumer recycled content The portion of the material used to make an item that is from material recycled by the factory and not the consumer. While this is technically recycled content, it does not support traditional recycling programs and, in many cases, does not decrease the amount of virgin material needed to make the product.
Recyclable The material is acceptable for recycling. This varies with region so always check for compatibility with the U-M Recycling Program.
Recycled content The item contains material that has been recycled. Investigate whether it is pre- or post-consumer recycled content.