The Recycled Claim Standard (RCS) is a voluntary, international content claim standard that gives credibility to recycled material claims by tracking recycled input through the supply chain of products.
The RCS is a chain of custody standard that uses the requirements of the Content Claim Standard (CCS) for fabrics, clothing, garments, accessories, and more.
The goal of the Recycled Claim Standard is to drive higher percentages of recycled content in products and reduce the harmful impact of production on people and the environment.
When it comes to the recycled content of clothing, the RCS provides both brands and end consumers with a tool to make informed decisions by ensuring that raw materials have been reclaimed from the waste stream.
The Recycled Claim Standard verifies recycled content in products and is a widely recognized standard around the globe. It aims to improve consumers’ confidence in recycled textiles.
Certification standards matter, especially in the textile and apparel industry, to guarantee that manufacturers use sustainable production processes, environmentally friendly, and socially responsible working conditions.
When shopping for clothes made from recycled materials, choose items that have been audited externally and verified according to a content claim standard, such as the RCS certification.
Here is everything you need to know about the Recycled Claim Standard.
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Recycled Claim Standard criteria
The RCS certification guarantees the following:
- requirements of the Content Claim Standard (CCS)
- at least 5% of certified recycled materials
- traceability from recycled to the final product
Only products with at least 5% of recycled content qualify for product-specific RCS labeling.
The RCS certification offers two product labels:
- RECYCLED 100
- RECYCLED BLENDED
The RCS 100 guarantees that the product contains 95-100% recycled content without any non-certified material of the same type.
The RCS Blended guarantees that the product contains 5-95% recycled content with no other restrictions on the remaining content.
Each stage of production is required to be certified, from the recycling stage to the last seller.
The Recycled Claim Standard applies to the following textile products:
- recycled garments, clothes, and final textile products
- recycled home textiles
- recycled fabrics
- recycled yarns
- recycled fibers
- recycled metal
- recycled plastic
- recycled paper
The RCS certification applies to the following supply chain sites:
- weaving and knitting
- dyeing and printing
- cutting and sewing
The following steps are required to be RCS certified:
- recycling of materials
- marketing of RCS products
- whole RCS Certification process
- every manufacturing process through which the recycled material is used to make intermediate products such as yarns and fabrics or finished products intended for the consumer
The RCS certification doesn't apply to the following steps:
- refuse collection
- sorting, selection, and grouping
- random verification and self-declaration
The RCS aligns with recycled definitions across multiple applications and follows the ISO 14021 definition, with interpretations based on the United States Federal Trade Commission Green Guides.
The Recycled Claim Standard does not address social or environmental aspects of processing and manufacturing, quality, or legal compliance.
The RCS is a voluntary standard that doesn't replace the legal or regulatory requirements of any country.
What is the Recycled Claim Standard (RCS)?
The Recycled Claim Standard (RCS) is an internationally recognized standard that provides companies with a tool to verify that one or more specific input material is in a final product.
The global nonprofit Textile Exchange maintains the RCS. It develops and promotes a suite of leading industry standards, as well as collects and publishes critical industry data and insights.
Founded in 2002 and headquartered in the US, the Textile Exchange works closely with all sectors of the textile supply chain to find the best ways to create positive impacts on water, soil, air, animals, and the human population.
The Textile Exchange also manages Content Claim Standard (CCS), the Global Recycled Standard (GRS), the Organic Content Standard (OCS), the Responsible Down Standard (RDS), and the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS).
The Recycled Claim Standard was originally developed in partnership with the Outdoor Industry Association’s Sustainability Working Group’s Materials Traceability Task Force in 2013.
The latest version of the standard, RCS 2.0, replaced the previous version, RCS 1.0, in July 2017. The next scheduled revision of the RCS is in 2021.
The Recycled Claim Standard tracks certified recycled materials in the whole supply chain, from the first processor to the final product. Each organization along the value chain is required to ensure the integrity of the input material.
The RCS label has strict guidelines and certification processes. It verifies the recycled content of textile products, backed by independent certification of the input material.
To become RCS certified, raw materials, intermediates, and final textile products must take sufficient steps to preserve the identity of the input material.
The Recycled Claim Standard covers companies in ginning, spinning, weaving, knitting, dyeing, printing, cutting, and stitching of all textiles made with at least 5% of certified recycled content.
The aim of Recycled Claim Standard certification
The RCS certification aims to enhance the use of recycled materials to promote sustainable consumption and a production model that reduces the consumption of resources, such as virgin raw materials, water, and energy.
The Recycled Claim Standard also provides a tool for companies to validate and communicate sustainability claims about their products.
In the global textile and apparel industry, the raw material level has one of the most significant impacts and is the farthest way away from the consumer.
The RCS certification verifies essential practices at the beginning of the supply chain and tracks the material to the final product. It offers brand protection, confidence in sourcing, and greater credibility.
The Recycled Claim Standard provides transparent, consistent, and comprehensive independent evaluation and verification of recycled material content claims on products.
The RCS certification uses an independent third-party certification process to ensure that products adhere to recycled content requirements.
By verifying the claims made to consumers, the RCS certification provides a credible voice for suppliers and brands. It leads to higher confidence with a system of standards recognized internationally.
The Recycled Claim Standard drives the industry to move faster towards progress on sustainability goals. It defines globally recognized requirements that ensure the recycled status of textiles, from raw material harvesting to the final product.
The Recycled Claim Standard also provides a credible assurance to the end consumer. It allows textile processors and manufacturers to export their recycled fabrics and garments with one certification accepted in all major markets.
The RCS is also an active contributor to sustainable development. It pushes recycled textiles to become a significant part of everyday life, enhancing human lives and the environment.
What does RCS certified mean?
The RCS certification is an international, voluntary, content claim standard that sets requirements for third-party verification of the chain of custody and recycled content.
RCS certified recycled products must contain a minimum of 5% of recycled material.
The RECYCLED 100 label guarantees products contain 95-100% recycled content without any non-certified material of the same type.
The RECYCLED BLENDED label guarantees products contain 5-95% recycled content with no other restrictions on the remaining content.
The recycled content in textile products must receive adequate identification and traceability along the entire chain of custody. Each stage of production is required to be certified.
The RCS uses the ISO 14021 definition of recycled content, with interpretations based on the US Federal Trade Commission Green Guides.
The RCS certification applies to both pre-consumer (or post-industrial) and post-consumer recycled material content.
The growth in recycled fiber consumption demands unified processing criteria applicable to the global textile and apparel industry. And the RCS certification has demonstrated its practical feasibility.
The RCS is internationally recognized, widely understood, trusted, and respected by consumers. It verifies the recycled content of products in every step of the value chain through third-party certification.
However, the Recycled Claim Standard does not address social or environmental aspects of processing and manufacturing, quality, or legal compliance.
It doesn't guarantee that products only contain harmless chemicals. It doesn't ensure socially responsible manufacturing, good working conditions, or environmental stewardship either.
The Global Recycled Standard (GRS) is the better certification label to look for when buying and selling products that contain recycled materials.
The Recycled Claim Standard certification process
The RCS certification relies on third-party verification to confirm whether a product includes the proper amount of recycled material.
The Recycled Claim Standard often serves as a business-to-business tool and a means for companies to ensure that they are selling and buy certified recycled products.
It verifies recycled content in products along the supply chain and tracks the material from its first processing to the final product. Each organization is checked by an independent third-party.
Entities that wish to become RCS certified are requested to contact an approved certification body (CB) to request services. The CB manages the entire process of certification, from beginning to final labeling and communications.
Here is how the RCS certification process looks like step-by-step:
- Choose a certification body and fill out the application form.
- Apply to more than one certification body to compare price and timing.
- Sign a contract with the certification body of your choice (valid one year).
- Read the standard and prepare relevant documents.
- Meet the auditor after good preparation to reduce certification costs.
- Review documents and procedures against the RCS requirements.
- Wait for the result of the audit and subsequent certification decision.
- Act on a corrective action plan if there are non-conformities (NC).
- Receive a scope certificate (SC) when all requirements are met.
- Prepare for unannounced inspections that verify standard compliance.
- Contact the certification body to apply for a transaction certificate (TC).
Transaction certificates are obligatory for all RCS purchases. They confirm that products conform to the standard requirements and are requested from the supplier at the time of purchase.
Transaction certificates are checked annually during audits. Issuing them involves additional costs. Products cannot be considered certified without their relevant transaction certificates.
Recycled Claim Standard approved certification bodies
Each applicant may choose its certification body. And all RCS approved certifiers are entitled to offer related inspection and certification services worldwide.
All companies participating in the RCS certification scheme need to work in compliance with all criteria of the standard.
Some of the RCS approved certification bodies are:
- CCPB (IT)
- CERES (DE)
- Control Union Certifications (NL)
- ETKO (TR)
- GCL International Ltd. (UK)
- GSCI Services Pvt. (IN)
- IDFL Institute and Laboratory (TW)
- Intertek Testing Services NA (CN)
- NSF Certification (US)
- OneCert International Pvt. (IN)
- SCS Global Services (US)
- USB Certification Denetim Gozetim ve Belgelendirme Hizmetleri (TR)
RCS certified sustainable fashion brands
Before buying any clothing made of recycled materials, look for certifications such as the RCS to ensure that the product contains verified recycled fibers.
Here are some of the best sustainable fashion brands that offer RCS or GRS-certified clothing fabrics:
- Wolven, an American activewear and swimwear label creating patterns inspired by nature to make sustainability sexy.
- TALA, a British activewear brand making cute, empowering, and environmentally friendly workout clothes for women.
- Nudie Jeans, a Swedish denim brand making high-quality jeans sustainably and ethically.
- Kuyichi, a Dutch style-conscious brand that inspires younger generations to wear organic jeans.
- Silou, a luxury activewear brand specializing in clothes that feel good, are non-toxic, sustainable, and high-quality.
- Emilia George, American maternity and nursing wear brand designing clothes for all stages of motherhood: during and after pregnancy, at work, at home.
- Mandala, a German activewear brand creating sustainable yoga wear made of ecological materials.
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About the Author: Alex Assoune
Alex Assoune (MS) is a global health and environmental advocate. He founded Panaprium to inspire others with conscious living, ethical, and sustainable fashion. Alex has worked in many countries to address social and environmental issues. He speaks three languages and holds two Master of Science degrees in Engineering from SIGMA and IFPEN schools.