What is Recycled Paper?
Paper is made using cellulose fibres from trees, but these fibres can be recycled a number of times before they break down too much. Recycling paper is therefore a way to extend the life of the fibres and reduce the amount of trees that need to be cut down to create new paper products.
Recycled paper contains fibres from paper that has already been used, which is commonly referred to as ‘post-consumer waste’. In general, recycled paper should contain a significant amount of post-consumer waste in order to be classified as recycled, but it is not always manufactured from 100% recycled materials.
Recycled paper is often just as good as new paper. It can be used for printing, packaging and other uses just like standard paper, but at the same time it has a number of benefits. For example, it:
- prevents paper wastage by diverting paper from landfill sites
- extends the life of the original fibres
- uses less energy in the manufacturing process
- causes less pollution
Most types of paper can be recycled, including poorer grades that are coloured or contain laminates. Paper can be recycled a number of times before the fibres break down and become too short to be used in the production of new paper products.
Uses for Recycled Paper
Recycled paper is used in a wide range of products, and not only standard products like office printing paper and notepads. It can essentially be used in the same way as any standard paper products, and you may find it in:
- egg cartons
How is Paper Recycled?
The paper recycling process begins when people leave their used paper outside of their homes for collection by local authorities. Once the paper waste has been collected it is cleaned and graded. Five paper grades have been compiled by the European Recovered Paper Association and the Confederation of European Paper Industries, which include:
- Ordinary Grades (various grades of paper, boards, mixed newspapers)
- Medium Grades (white shavings, sorted office paper)
- High Grades (mixed printer shavings, white business forms, white newsprint)
- Kraft Grades (used and unused corrugated kraft, used and unused kraft sacks)
- Special Grades (mixed packaging and recovered paper, wet labels, liquid board packaging)
For full details of the types of paper contained in each grade, this page at Let’s Recycle has a detailed guide.
After the paper has been sorted, it is pulped to remove the contaminants, and it is then cleaned and filtered down until all the impurities have been removed. The ink is then removed using a system where air is pumped into the mixture and forces the ink to stick to the air bubbles and rise to the surface, and the fibres may then be bleached. After this, the manufacturing process is the same as the process used for standard paper.
Always Recycle Your Paper
There are a number of good arguments for recycling your paper, and it is generally seen as the most environmentally-friendly way to manufacture new paper. By recycling all of your used paper and making the effort to buy recycled paper, you can help to reduce your own carbon footprint while enjoying high-quality paper products at the same time.