The Global Recycle Standard (GRS) aims to substantiate the recycled content in a product. It certifies that all production processes in the entire supply chain have undergone the proper steps to ensure the integrity of the final product. In addition to monitoring the recycled content that goes into a finished product, the standard also addresses issues pertaining to environmental and social criteria.

The GRS is based on a tracking and tracing principle which uses a transaction certificate based system similar to organic certification to ensure the highest level of integrity. This acts as a monitoring and controlling mechanism throughout the value chain of certified final products.


The GRS was developed by the Control Union Certifications (CU) in 2008, however in January 2011 Textile Exchange (formerly Organic Exchange) took over ownership of the standard from Control Union and will be putting out a revised version of the Standard in 2012. Textile Exchange is a non-profit, membership-based organisation.

At present Control Union is the only certification body that offers a fully integrated certification process for the GRS, however it will be open for other certification bodies from 2012 onwards.


The GRS was developed with the textile industry in mind; however it may also be applied to products from any industry. It applies to any product made from recycled materials, including natural fibres (e.g. recycled cotton or recycled wool), synthetic materials (e.g. recycled polyester, recycled polyamide/other recycled polymer) and other products such as recycled paper, recycled glass, etc.

The standard is intended for companies that sell and/or produce products with recycled content; hence it targets both brands and manufacturers. If brands and retailers want to have their products certified to the GRS, they need to advise their suppliers that this is a requirement for the recycled products they produce and that they will be responsible for arranging certification. If the producer is outsourcing the production of the end product partially or completely, all units involved must also comply with the GRS in order for the product to be certified.

Market Acceptance

The GRS is intended for global use, and was launched in the Far East with combined efforts from Control Union in the Netherlands, Hong Kong and Korea in 2008. The market has now expanded globally in most manufacturing countries. There are no units certified to GRS in the US to date.

Examples of GRS certified companies can be found at


The standard, as described in detail here (Aug 2010), applies to the full supply chain and addresses criteria relating to four key elements: traceability, environmental principles, social requirements and labelling. A new version (Version 3) is under development for release in 2012, and will add requirements for chemical inputs and further definitions on the inputs that can be claimed as recycled.  Watch for information and updates here:  Global Recycle Standard Version 3.

Energy Consumption

Certified companies are required to keep full records of their energy consumption, as stated in the ‘Environmental Principles’ criteria (6.2).

Water Consumption

Certified companies are required to keep full records of their water consumption, as stated in the ‘Environmental Principles’ criteria (6.2).

Water Emissions

Waste water treatment is addressed under the ‘Environmental Principles’ criteria (6.2 – 6.5), requiring certified companies to keep full records of waste water treatment, including the disposal of waste water, and to have a waste water treatment system (either within the company or by the local authorities) in place. Additionally, waste water acidity must fall between pH <6 or >9, waste water temperature must be below 40 degrees Celsius/104 degrees Fahrenheit, and waste water must not contain any additives.

Chemicals (Accepted/Restricted)

There are no restricted chemicals to date in GRS. This still be an additional criteria which will be incorporated in GRS Version 3.

Chemical Management

Certified companies are required to keep full records of the use of chemicals, as stated in the ‘environmental principles’ criteria (6.2).

Consumer Safety

Not covered.  However, consumer safety will be integrated in GRS Version 3 via restricted chemicals in production and in the end products.

Occupational Health and Safety

Workers’ health and safety, as well as hygiene, hazards and first aid, are aspects addressed under the ‘Social Requirement’ element (7.1 – 7.4, 10.1 – 10.6).

The workers’ health and safety criteria requires the certified company to

  • Conduct a risk assessment;
  • Have an up-to-date health, safety and hygiene quality manual, addressing issues raised in the risk assessment, including accident and emergency procedures etc.;
  • Assign a senior member of staff to be responsible for all health, safety and training issues;
  • Provide all workers with appropriate protective clothing which must be worn.

Criteria related to hygiene, hazards and first aid requires certified companies to have

  • Documented hygienic instructions displayed clearly;
  • Emergency procedures understandable to all workers and clearly displayed,
  • Warning signs to be used with each potential hazard and first aid kits readily available when necessary;
  • Washing facilities, clean drinking water and dining area accessible to workers.

Additionally, any dormitories or on-site living facilities must have running water and hygienic sanitation.

Record Keeping

The standard uses a transaction certificate system that allows for optimal tracking of recycled materials. This requires the certified company to monitor and keep records (for at least five years) of all information pertaining to the certified product, such as the source and origin of materials used in manufacture, transportation methods, generated waste and any certifications issued during the production of the product. As part of this, the company is obliged to maintain a documented GRS system plan that describes the processes, including the point of risks and the flow diagram.

As stated under the ‘Social Requirements’ criteria (9.1), records must also be kept for all health, hygiene and safety training activities that take place (including attendees and topics discussed), which must also be made available for all those working in the certified process.

Management Responsibilities/Roles

The certified company must name a responsible person for their ‘Environmental Principles’ (6.1), and list this person in the environmental policy manual.  A senior member of staff must also be assigned to be responsible for health, safety and training issues within the company (7.3).


Training is required under both the ‘Environmental Policy’ (6.1) and ‘Social Policy’ (9.1 – 9.2) of the GRS. The environmental policy requires staff to be trained on environmental issues regarding waste water and chemical use and disposal. The social policy requires staff to be trained on health, hygiene and safety activities.

Environmental Policy

GRS requires certified companies to have an ‘Environmental Policy’ manual in place (6.1), addressed in the ‘Environmental Principals’ element of the standard. This manual must name the responsible person within the certified company, as well as list documented procedures to minimise and monitor waste and discharges, including procedures on how the certified company shall act in the event of incidents regarding waste water contamination. It must also contain procedures for training staff on environmental issues regarding waste water and chemical use and disposal. The manual must furthermore contain a programme for improvement of the aforementioned issues.

Social Responsibility

‘Social Requirements’ is one of the four key criteria addressed by GRS (8.1 – 8.16). This encompasses matters related to workers’ health and safety (as explained under ‘2.e. Occupational Health and Safety’ above) and workers’ labour rights, to ensure they are in accordance with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) criteria. These principles are applicable at all parts of the supply chain starting from the collecting stations. Raw material supply is therefore not included, although efforts are being made to also include this under the social principles.

Criteria related to workers’ labour rights includes the following points:

  • Prohibition of forced or bonded labour and holding workers’ identity papers or deposits.
  • Workers have the right to leave the certified company after reasonable notice.
  • All workers have the right to join or form trade unions and establish collective bargaining initiatives, and no discrimination is allowed against workers’ representatives.
  • No child labour can exist, and in the event of children being employed in the past, the organisation must be engaged in initiatives pertaining to educational programmes for these children. Any employees between the age of 16 and 18 must not be employed at night or operate in hazardous conditions.
  • Wages must meet minimum, national legal standards or industry benchmark standards, whichever is higher.
  • All employees must have an (understandable) employment contract, which meets national law and practices, and includes details of wages and social benefits and insurances that are deducted by the certified company. Employees must also receive notice of their pay through pay
    slips or registration.
  • Working hours must comply with national laws and benchmark industry standards, whichever affords greater protection, and have a maximum 48-hour working week with a minimum one day of rest per seven day period.
  • Overtime must be voluntary, with a maximum of 12 hours per week, and must be paid at a premium rate.
  • Discrimination of any kind is prohibited in recruitment.
  • All workers’ rights regulations and social security laws must be upheld.
  • Physical and psychological abuse is prohibited.

‘Traceability’ is one of the four key elements described in the GRS. As part of this element, the standard requires that a mass balance test is performed on all certified companies (5.1), ensuring that the amount of recycled inputs correspond to the amount of recycled outputs.  In order to become certified to the GRS, by volume or weight, 5% of the material produced has to be from a GRS approved or certified origin and be 100% free from pollutants. The total annual amount of GRS material is derived from a mass balance calculation. Data will be checked during an annual audit and must be in conformity with the contract. Deviations of > 5% will result in non-conformity and may lead to exclusion from the GRS programme.

Storage and Transportation

The ‘Traceability’ principle includes criteria related to storage and transportation that takes place during and after production of the GRS certified product (1.1) to ensure no contamination or substitution of content takes place.

Transport used for outgoing GRS products must be clean to avoid mixture or contamination with products that have not been obtained in accordance with the provisions, and random checks must be carried out by the supplier with an accompanying report, which must be made available on request.

All points of risk where contamination with foreign material or mixing with products contaminated with foreign materials can occur during the process of storage and processing must be identified and documented, with preventive measures taken and documented accordingly. Any external storage must also be considered a part of the facility, where the same rules apply.


On Site Audits or Desktop Review

Both are used. The certification body must make a full physical inspection/site audit of the production/ preparation units or other premises at least once a year (12.2).

Unannounced Inspections/Other Inspections

The certification body has the right to carry out unannounced inspection visits (12.2). The visits should cover in particular those holdings or situations where specific risk or exchange of products may exist.


Application: Suppliers who are producing the product to be certified must fill out an application form (this can be downloaded from the Control Union website, or requested via email). The supplier must also submit a recycled materials document that declares the origin of the recycled material.

Audit:After validation and approval of the application, an audit takes place. During the audit, the certification body must have access to all parts of the unit and premises, as well as to the accounts and relevant supporting documents.

Certification: After a successful audit has taken place, a scope certificate is issued to certify that the unit is able to process the specified recycled material in accordance with the GRS.
Each shipment is then accompanied with a transaction certificate to track the recycled material throughout the supply chain. This document guarantees the delivered goods are made from certified recycled material. This also allows auditors to conduct a mass balance test that verifies the amount of recycled inputs and outputs for a given unit.


Timing is determined by the individual certification body rather than by GRS. More details can be found by contacting Control Union or other certification bodies.

Audit Team

A team from the certification body runs the auditing process. This practice for third party certification ensures integrity. The audited party, the auditor, and the standard setting body are independent to prevent any conflict of interest.


An audit whereby all production and preparations units are inspected must take place at least once a year. If all standards requirements are met, a scope certificate will be issued to attest that the company is qualified to produce to the GRS; this scope certificate is valid for one year.

Transaction certificates are then issued each time goods change ownership, and details have to match invoices and shipping documents. This shows that the goods being shipped are made of a GRS certified raw materials and processed according GRS requirements.

Certification and License Fee

Fees are determined by the individual certification body rather than by GRS. More details can be found by contacting Control Union or other certification bodies.


Both a labeling Guide and a Manual will be developed and launched with GRS Version 3.  A brochure and a PowerPoint presentation are available on the Textile Exchange website.


The Global Recycle Standard, Version 2.1 (March, 2012), issued by Control Union, is a document that outlines all criteria requirements for the GRS and can be followed as a guideline in achieving the GRS certification.

Textile Exchange are also creating an Implementation manual and Labeling guide to be released shortly.



Finished or partially-finished products containing recycled raw material may be labeled as a “Global Recycle Standard” product. The product is categorised based on the amount of pre- and/or post-consumer recycled raw material the product contains. This amount is expressed in a percentage (%) with a minimum of 5% and the wording on the GRS labeled products must state: “Made with recycled [raw material] – X% pre-consumer and X% post-consumer”.

Currently, certified products must also be labelled with “Control Union + project number”, which is issued by Control Union Certifications.

Products may also be labelled with the logo of the Global Recycle Standard, as well as reference to Control Union’s website or Any references to the logo in informational material must be approved by Control Union in writing.


Finished or partially-finished products containing recycled raw material may be labeled as “Global Recycle Standard” product.


There is no additional fee for the use of the labels.