Everyday enviro with Elise: the difference between pre- and post-consumer waste

Everyday enviro with Elise: the difference between pre- and post-consumer waste

By Elise Catterall  December 9th, 2020

You might have seen these words popping up on products you’ve purchased, but what do they actually mean?


Every day we learn something new! Just the other day, I purchased some underwear made by Kayser that proudly stated that they were made from 90 per cent pre-consumer waste. On the same day, I purchased some gift cards that carried the statement “made with 100 per cent post-consumer waste”. Both claims were being used as marketing statements emphasising reuse and repurposing, but clearly meant very different things. Although I was more familiar with post-consumer waste, I had never really stopped to think about the difference between pre- and post-consumer waste or why one type of waste might be better than another, or not.

Pre-consumer waste is basically any material that is discarded before it reaches the consumer. It might be material trimmings, faulty items, overstock raw materials, excess inventory — basically anything that doesn’t make it to the consumer that is brought back into the manufacturing process to be given a new life. In the case of the Kayser underwear the brand’s Kayser Cares collection uses scrap fabric, rejects and trimmings from new garments to repurpose into new items rather than discarding them. Not exactly recycling, but definitely still diverting waste. And it’s not just underwear — you can find pre-consumer waste turned into other clothing items and accessories, for example Baggu tote bags which are made entirely from pre-consumer scrap fabric.

Post-consumer waste is material that is discarded after it has been used; it may be a full item or a remnant, and it may be fully functional or not, but one way or another it has served its purpose and is destined to be waste.  For example, it might be discarded office paper or a newspaper that has been read that is turned into items like my gift cards, or more office paper, or it might be used PET soft drink bottles becoming outdoor furniture. No matter what it is or what it becomes, it all helps create a circular economy.

Post-consumer waste seems to get more airplay than pre-consumer waste, but they are both important avenues for diverting items from landfill. In the textile industry, while statistics show that around 30 per cent of clothing is discarded after a single wear, it is also estimated that up to 20 per cent of new fabric is wasted. So when companies make a point of using this waste, it is hugely significant. 

Ultimately, we need both pre- and post-consumer waste to be repurposed into useful items. It is exciting to find companies that are promoting these initiatives when we do find ourselves having to purchase something new — these are the companies we need to support.

Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes. 


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Elise Catterall

Elise is a writer, photographer, and naturopath with a passion for nature. She completed a Master of Public Health in 2017 through the University of Sydney. Her photographic work focuses on flowers and plants as a way of celebrating nature. She has been writing for Planet Ark since 2017, sharing positive environment stories, personal environmental experiences and perspectives.

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