RECYCLED PAPER: MYTHS & FACTS

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 consumes up to 50% less energy than
using trees.

Making recycled paper is more polluting than making new paper

False!
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.
Recycled paper production uses up to 50% less water than virgin paper and fewer
chemical processes.

The production of recycled paper also reduces carbon emissions. In addition,
carbon is retained in the paper when recycled rather than being released when
incinerated or broken down in landfill sites. When compared to the production
of virgin paper, 1 tonne of recycled paper can save 1.32 tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

Making recycled paper requires a lot of bleaching

False!
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.

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

False and True!
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.