Paper recycling can be defined as the environmentally friendly process of recovering and processing of scrap and waste paper, to create new paper products.
Rigorous scientific research has demonstrated that manufacturing paper with recycled content creates significant environmental and economic benefits.
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Benefits of paper recycling:
Why recycle paper?
Based upon wood, a natural renewable resource, paper is both biodegradable and recyclable. Recycling recovered paper creates these significant environmental and economic benefits:
- Environmental Impact – The primary component of paper is wood pulp, which is obtained from trees. Recycling paper results in reduced usage of wood as the raw material, which means less forest depletion. Less forest depletion means more natural habitats for birds, insects, and wildlife that live in these trees.
- Conserves Energy – Less energy is spent on recycling paper which ensures that fewer greenhouse gases, that cause global warming, are released. Since decomposition of the paper in landfills causes methane emissions, recycling paper cuts these down these emissions too.
- Landfill Space – As more paper is recycled, less land is filled with waste paper.
- Water Consumption – The process of making virgin paper consumes and pollutes large quantities of fresh water, whereas the process of recycling paper uses up much less of this crucial resource.
- Reduces Air Pollution – Air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and other particulates used for virgin paper production are reduced by about 60 pounds then producing one ton of recycled paper.
- Economic Benefits – Recycled paper production creates sustainable jobs, reduces the costs that are associated with waste paper disposal, lowers the cost of environmental remediation, and encourages commercial efficiency.
How paper is recycled?
The paper recycling process includes a number of process steps, including collection, transportation, sorting, processing into usable raw materials and finally using that raw material to produce new paper products:
- Collection – Paper is taken from the bin and deposited in a large recycling container along with paper from other recycling bins.
- Transportation – The recovered paper waste is taken to the paper recycling plant, where it is separated into types and grades.
- Sorting – After getting transported into recycling plants, the paper is sorted into different grades. Grading is crucial because it determines the amount of fiber that can be extracted from the pulp.
- Processing the waste paper into usable raw material
There are multiple functions in the processing phase which include the following:
- Pulping – The sorted paper is then turned into pulp using water, hydrogen peroxide and caustic soda with soap.
- Pulp Screening and Cleaning – To remove contamination from the pulp, the pulp is screened for non-paper debris such as glue, staples, and plastic.
- De-inking – The pulp is now all fiber and will be repeatedly de-inked. This process removes printing ink and glue residues and adhesives.
- Refining – The mechanical treatment process of paper pulp fibers to give the appropriate characteristics for papermaking.
- Rolling – Lastly, the almost dry pulp is pushed through an ironing-board-type machine that rolls it into the desired paper grade. It is then dried using heated metal rollers and wound into a giant roll.
It is crucial to note that recycling paper is not comparable to other types of recycling, such as metal recycling. With metals, the metallic properties are retained after repeated recycling, but recycling paper leads to reduction in the length of fibers. The recyclable paper will ultimately reach a point where it can no longer be recycled.
Where can I recycle paper?
First of all, always check with your own waste management facility, and remember the zero-waste lifestyle is about recycling less, not more. Crucial for recycling paper is that there is no contamination in the recycling bin. This means that bottles and cans need to be empty of liquids. Other food containers like pasta sauce jars and yogurt tubs should be rinsed clean. Any food or soda residue that gets on the paper renders it unrecyclable and can ruin an entire bale.
Paper recycling centers
Paper recycling centers take high-grade and mixed-grade office paper: paper commonly found in offices, including copy paper and envelopes. Some centers also accept co-mingled paper products such as magazines, catalogs, and newspapers. Paper recycling centers are usually run by a city’s solid waste management department.
Paper recycling companies
The paper recycling industry is fairly competitive. Leading paper recycling companies include:
- Hanna Paper Recycling
- DS Smith
- Smurfit Kappa Group
- Waste Management
- Republic Services
- Sonoco Recycling
- Veolia Environment
- Heinzel Group
Mergers and acquisitions are some of the strategies adopted by these key manufacturers. New product launches and continuous technological innovations are also adopted by these paper recycling companies.