Myths and Facts about Recycled Paper
|• It requires more energy to make recycled paper than new paper|
False and True!
If we look at the papermaking process alone, then it does indeed normally take more energy to make paper from waste paper than from pulp because of the extra cleaning involved, but …….. pulp does not grow on trees! If we include all the other energy requirements involved in turning wood chips into pulp, the making of recycled paper leads to energy savings.
|• Making recycled paper is more polluting than making new paper|
Pulping, bleaching and manufacturing paper, especially paper made from 'chemical' pulp (used for most printing papers other than newsprint), requires more chemicals and is often more polluting than making recycled paper.
|• Making recycled paper requires a lot of bleaching |
Most recycled papers require little if any bleaching.
If a mill has no de-inking or cleaning equipment, it can only accept unprinted or lightly printed (e.g. computer) waste paper.
At other mills printed waste is cleaned by:
Dispersal - the ink is diluted and dispersed in the pulp (with no extra pollution); or
De-inking - this is more a mechanical than a chemical process. A detergent (usually phosphate free) is used to dissolve the ink. Most commonly air bubbles are injected into a large vat (de-inking cell) holding the pulp. Ink sticks to the bubbles and rises to the surface where it is scooped off. This process is repeated a couple of times. The de-inked waste is solidified and either burned, turned into soil conditioner or safely disposed off.
Where bleaching is used, almost invariably chlorine-free agents are used.
|• It is better to burn (incinerate) waste paper than to recycle it |
False and (occasionally) True!
There is a lot of paper (especially packaging) which is contaminated or difficult to recycle (if mixed up with other materials). It may be better to make use of the calorific value of the waste than dump it in a hole in the ground. But incineration itself can cause pollution! … and there is still much good quality paper going to waste. It is obviously better to recycle this (and retain the carbon) than to burn it.
Over the last few years there have been a number of government reports predicting that by the end of this decade (or sooner) we will have run out of available landfill sites, if we continue to dispose of our waste at current rates.
|• There is nothing wrong with using trees - a renewable resource - as a crop for paper|
False and True!
Trees have only been used on a large scale for papermaking since the second half of the 19th century. Provided they are grown in a sustainable and ecologically responsible way, trees are a valuable source of raw material for papermaking
…. but there are many areas where trees are grown as a 'cash crop', often in mono-culture fashion (one species of tree). Fertilisers, herbicides, insecticides and other pesticides are used to ensure a 'healthy' crop with consequent damage to the environment
….and there is a limit to how much natural or original forest we want to see turned over to 'farmed' forest
….and in areas where clear-felling is practised, it can lead to soil erosion.
Don't trust the label 'made from sustainable forests' at face value. To be sure, specify papers made with FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified content.
|• Recycled Papers are always of poor quality|
The quality of recycled paper (as well as new paper) has benefitted from great improvements in papermaking technology over the last three decades. Quality control is almost invariably computerised and subject to the strictest testing and checking. Many recycled coated and office papers are now indistinguishable from virgin equivalents, not just in their performance, but even in their appearance. There are obviously still some uncoated grades with a more uneven surface structure that will still have to be treated with a degree of caution. Should there be any doubt about a paper's performance, advice should be sought from the printer or merchant.
|• Recycled Papers are always more expensive|
False and True!
There is now a wider choice of recycled papers available, many of which are competitively priced. It is also important to remember that quality is not identical with appearance. Some of the quality recycled papers will be more expensive, but in the short term it will remain difficult for recycled grades to offer the same breadth of qualities as virgin grades. It should also be borne in mind that the price of paper is only one component, albeit a visible one, of the total cost of a print job.