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Guide to Recycled Claims Standard

This article dives deep into the RCS, its objectives, criteria, and its significance in the modern era.

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Studio Marlowe

Written by:

Christi Farrell, RA, Leed GA


June 7, 2023


Studio Marlowe

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The Recycled Claims Standard (RCS) is a pivotal certification for products that claim to contain recycled content.

As industries and consumers become more conscious of their environmental footprint, the RCS stands as a testament to transparency, ensuring that products labeled as containing recycled content genuinely do.

This article dives deep into the RCS, its objectives, criteria, and its significance in the modern era.

What is the Recycled Claims Standard (RCS)?

The Recycled Claims Standard is a voluntary product standard developed by Textile Exchange. It sets requirements for third-party certification of recycled content and chain of custody. It is applicable to all products that claim to contain recycled content.

Objectives of the RCS:

  1. Promote Recycling: Encourage the use of recycled materials in products, reducing the need for virgin resources.
  2. Ensure Traceability: Establish a chain of custody system to trace recycled materials from their source to the final product.
  3. Provide Credibility: Offer a credible, third-party certified labeling claim about the recycled content in products.

Key Criteria of the RCS:

  1. Recycled Content: The RCS verifies the presence and amount of recycled material in a final product.
  2. Chain of Custody: A robust chain of custody system is essential to ensure the traceability of recycled materials from their source to the end product.
  3. Third-party Verification: Independent organizations are responsible for assessing and verifying the claims made under the RCS.

Certification Process:

Companies aiming for RCS certification must undergo an evaluation by a third-party certification body. This process includes:

  1. A comprehensive review of the company's documentation.
  2. On-site inspections to confirm compliance with RCS criteria.
  3. Testing of products to validate recycled content claims.

Why is RCS Important?

  1. Environmental Benefits: By verifying recycled content claims, the RCS supports the circular economy and reduces the reliance on virgin resources.
  2. Consumer Confidence: The RCS label assures consumers that they are purchasing products with genuine recycled content.
  3. Business Advantages: Companies that achieve RCS certification can distinguish themselves in the market and cater to environmentally-aware consumers.

Challenges and Criticisms:

The Recycled Claims Standard (RCS) has been instrumental in promoting transparency and accountability in the use of recycled content.

However, like any standard or certification, it is not without its challenges and criticisms. Here's a more detailed look:

  • Lack of Comprehensive Environmental and Social Criteria: One of the primary criticisms of the RCS is its primary focus on verifying recycled content without delving deeply into the broader environmental and social implications of production. While the GRS addresses these aspects, the RCS could be seen as lacking in this regard.
  • Potential for Greenwashing: Given that the RCS verifies whatever recycled content claim is made by a product without specifying a minimum percentage, there's a potential for brands to misuse the certification for marketing purposes without making significant sustainable changes.
  • Complexity of Supply Chains: The global nature of supply chains, especially in the textile industry, can make it challenging to trace and verify recycled content accurately. This complexity can sometimes lead to discrepancies in claims and actual content.
  • Cost of Certification: For smaller businesses and manufacturers, the cost associated with obtaining and maintaining RCS certification can be a barrier. This could limit the reach and impact of the standard.
  • Varying Interpretations: The RCS, like many standards, can be open to interpretation. This can lead to inconsistencies in how it's applied across different products, regions, and certifying bodies.
  • Consumer Awareness and Understanding: While eco-conscious consumers are on the rise, there's still a significant portion of the market that might not understand the nuances between different certifications like RCS and GRS. This could lead to confusion and misinformed purchasing decisions.

While the RCS offers significant benefits and has been a step in the right direction for promoting recycled content in products, it's essential to address its challenges and criticisms to enhance its effectiveness and credibility.

Continuous review and adaptation, based on feedback from stakeholders and evolving industry needs, will be crucial for the RCS's long-term success and impact.

Differences Between RCS and Global Recycled Standard (GRS):

While both the Recycled Claims Standard (RCS) and the Global Recycled Standard (GRS) aim to promote the use of recycled materials and ensure transparency in the supply chain, there are distinct differences between the two:


  • RCS: Primarily focuses on verifying the presence and amount of recycled content in a product. It does not delve deeply into the social and environmental aspects of the production process.
  • GRS: Goes beyond just verifying recycled content. It also sets requirements for social and environmental practices, chemical restrictions, and wastewater treatment.

Minimum Recycled Content:

  • RCS: Does not specify a minimum percentage of recycled content for certification. It verifies whatever claim is made by the product.
  • GRS: Requires products to contain a minimum of 20% recycled content to be certified.

Social and Environmental Criteria:

  • RCS: While it emphasizes the chain of custody and recycled content, it does not have stringent criteria related to social and environmental conditions of production.
  • GRS: Has a comprehensive approach that includes ensuring respect for labor rights, safe working conditions, and adherence to environmental regulations.

Chemical Restrictions:

  • RCS: Does not have a specific focus on chemical restrictions.
  • GRS: Restricts the use of certain chemicals and requires adherence to the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) wastewater guidelines.


  • RCS: Developed by Textile Exchange, a global non-profit organization.
  • GRS: Also a product of Textile Exchange but is more comprehensive in its approach.

While both RCS and GRS play crucial roles in promoting recycled content in products and ensuring transparency, they cater to different needs and have varied focuses.

The GRS offers a more holistic approach, considering both environmental and social aspects, whereas the RCS is more concentrated on verifying recycled content claims.

Depending on the specific needs and objectives of a company, one might be more suitable than the other.


The Recycled Claims Standard is a crucial tool in the journey towards a more sustainable and transparent production landscape.

By setting clear criteria for recycled content claims and ensuring third-party verification, the RCS not only promotes the use of recycled materials but also ensures that products bearing its label are genuinely sustainable.

As the demand for eco-friendly products grows, certifications like the RCS will play an essential role in guiding consumer choices and shaping a greener 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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