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Guide to Global Recycled Standard

This article delves deep into the Global Recycled Standard, its objectives, criteria, and its significance in today's world.

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Studio Marlowe

Written by:

Christi Farrell, RA, Leed GA


June 7, 2023


Studio Marlowe

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As the world grapples with the challenges of waste management, resource depletion, and environmental degradation, the Global Recycled Standard (GRS), emerges as a beacon of hope, promoting the production of goods from recycled materials and ensuring their processes are sustainable and socially responsible.

This article delves deep into the GRS, its objectives, criteria, and its significance in today's world.

What is the Global Recycled Standard (GRS)?

The Global Recycled Standard is a voluntary product standard that sets requirements for third-party certification of recycled content, chain of custody, social and environmental practices, and chemical restrictions.

It is applicable to any product containing a minimum of 20% recycled material.

Objectives of the GRS:

  • Promote Recycling: Encourage the use of recycled materials in products, thereby reducing the consumption of virgin resources.
  • Ensure Traceability: Establish a chain of custody system to trace recycled raw materials through the final product.
  • Safeguard Social and Environmental Conditions: Ensure that the production of GRS-certified products respects both environmental and social criteria, including worker rights and welfare.
  • Provide Credibility: Offer a credible, third-party certified labeling claim about the recycled content in products.

Key Criteria of the GRS:

  • Recycled Content: Products must contain a minimum of 20% recycled content to be GRS certified. The content can be derived from both pre-consumer and post-consumer sources.
  • Chain of Custody: A robust chain of custody system must be in place to ensure the traceability of recycled materials from their source to the final product.
  • Social and Environmental Criteria: Production units must adhere to environmental regulations, including waste water treatment, chemical use, and energy and water consumption. Additionally, they must respect labor rights, provide safe working conditions, and not engage in child or forced labor.
  • Restrictions on Chemicals: The GRS restricts the use of certain chemicals and requires adherence to the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) wastewater guidelines.

Certification Process:

Companies wishing to obtain GRS certification must undergo a rigorous assessment by a third-party certification body.

This involves:

  • A thorough review of the company's documentation.
  • On-site inspections to verify compliance with GRS criteria.
  • Testing of products to confirm recycled content and the absence of restricted chemicals.

Why is GRS Important?

  • Environmental Benefits: By promoting the use of recycled materials, the GRS helps reduce the strain on natural resources, decrease energy consumption, and minimize greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Consumer Confidence: The GRS label assures consumers that they are purchasing products made from genuine recycled content and produced under socially and environmentally responsible conditions.
  • Business Advantages: Companies that achieve GRS certification can differentiate themselves in the market, appeal to eco-conscious consumers, and potentially access new markets.

Challenges and Criticisms:

While the GRS has made significant strides in promoting recycling and sustainability, it is not without its challenges.

Some critics argue that the standard could be more stringent, especially regarding the minimum recycled content. Others believe that the certification process could be more transparent.


The Global Recycled Standard is a pivotal step towards a more sustainable and responsible production landscape.

By setting stringent criteria for recycled content and production processes, the GRS not only promotes recycling but also ensures that products bearing its label are genuinely sustainable and ethically produced.

As consumers become increasingly eco-conscious, certifications like the GRS will play a crucial role in guiding purchasing decisions and fostering a more sustainable future.

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Contributor / Co-Founder
Christi Farrell
Christi is a licensed architect and interior designer specializing in sustainability. She enjoys teaching design and bringing transparency to the impact that furniture has on our planet.
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