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Environmental Paper Related Definitions

Recycled Paper
A paper product containing those percentages of post-consumer material (PCW) and/or recycled fibre categories required by specifications and so labelled.

Currently, there is no agreement on what the term ‘recycled paper’ means, beyond the fact that it contains recovered fibre (which may be pre-consumer and/or post-consumer). You should establish strong post-consumer standards in your specifications and ensure that suppliers meet those standards. You must also question what others mean by ‘recycled paper’ unless the post-consumer content is clearly labelled.

Post-consumer material
These end products generated by consumers that have been separated or diverted from the solid waste stream. The critical words here are ‘end products’ and ‘consumers’. Products, scraps and materials still in the production or value-added process do not qualify. Examples that do qualify include office wastepaper, junk mail and magazines from people’s houses.

Recovered Material
Paper materials excluding mill broke, that have been separated, diverted or removed from the solid waste stream for the purpose of use, reuse or recycling. This term refers to the universe of materials that counts as recycled content, both pre-consumer and post. It is consistent with the EPA’s definition, which includes all materials produced after the initial papermaking process. Despite allowing inclusion of large amounts of scraps that may never have left the mill, it is consistent with the practical reality of how mills make their paper. However, the American Forest and Paper Association includes mill broke in their statistics on recovered materials.

Mill Broke
Any paper or paperboard scrap generated in a mill prior to completion of the manufacturing process which is unsuitable for subsequent applications, but can be re-used in the paper manufacturing process.

Mill broke is not counted as recycled or recovered material. Originally, ‘mill broke’ referred to all the scrap in a mill. Economic viability ensured that mills re-used it in making new paper. But, EPA defines mill broke as being only that portion of scraps produced in the initial paper manufacturing process. The amount of paper scrap in a mill that counts towards recycled content percentages can be quite large, particularly if the mill also sheets its paper.

Pulp substitutes
Fibre derived from recovered material, excluding mill converting scraps, which has not been printed and does not contain inks, coatings, adhesives or dyes (excluding whitening or blueing dyes or agents). Examples include envelope cuttings, tabulating cards and other types of post-mill converting wastes.

Paper manufacturing process
An operation that begins with the pulping of fibrous and non-fibrous raw materials and ends (after the first slitter/winder) with the cutting and trimming of the reel into smaller rolls. In an operation:

  • in which the finished product is sheeted directly off the machine, the production of rough sheets constitutes the end of the process
  • which involves supercalendaring, the end of the process is at the slitter/winder following the supercalendar; and
  • which involves off-machine coating, the process ends at the slitter/winder following the coater or the supercalendar associated with the coater

Pre-consumer materials
Recovered materials other than post-consumer material; pre-consumer materials have not met their intended end-use by a consumer and include allowable waste left over from manufacturing, converting and printing processes. Examples include mill converting scraps, pre-consumer de-inking material, pulp substitutes

Mill converting scraps
Paper generated in a paper mill after completion of the paper manufacturing process, excluding mill broke, which is unsuitable for subsequent applications but can be re-used in the paper manufacturing process. Examples include scraps left over from sheeting operations in a mill.

De-inking Fibre
Fibre derived from recovered material, excluding mill converting scraps, which has been printed and/or contains inks, coatings, adhesives or dyes (excluding whitening or blueing dyes or agents). There is both pre-consumer and post-consumer de-inking fibre. Examples of pre-consumer include printing scraps and unsold magazines.

Recycled Fibre
Fibre derived from recovered material which is included in the fibre finish of an end product

Forest Residues
Are fibrous by-products of harvesting, manufacturing, extractive, or woodcutting processes. Examples include chips, stumps, branches and sawdust.

Renewable
A term proposed for the paper industry for virgin paper made from ‘renewable resources’ such as managed tree plantations. This does not ensure environmentally sound paper.

Source reduction
A product or process that results in a net reduction in the generation of waste compared to the previous or comparable version and includes durable, reusable and re-manufactured products; products with no, or reduced toxic constituents and products marketed with no, or reduced packaging.

Wastepaper
An EPA term, including both pre-consumer and post-consumer materials, introduced in the original 1988 recycled paper guidelines. Its use in standards allowed papers with no post-consumer content, even made with mill scraps only, to be called ‘recycled’. EPA eliminated standards using wastepaper percentages in its May 1996 revised paper guidelines, but retained the term as the underlying basis for its definition of ‘recovered fibre’.

Chlorine Free Definitions

Processed Chlorine Free (PCF)
Recycled paper in which the recycled content is unbleached or bleached without chlorine or chlorine derivatives. Any virgin material portion of the paper must be TCF.This is as good as it gets. Go straight to heaven, do not pass Go!

Totally Chlorine Free (TCF)
Virgin paper that is unbleached or processed with a sequence that includes no chlorine or chlorine derivatives. It is important to create a market for TCF papers to convince the industry to skip ECF (see below) and go directly to TCF.

Elemental Chlorine Free (ECF)
Virgin paper processed without elemental chlorine, but with a chlorine derivative such as chlorine dioxide.

Although considerably less harmful than using chlorine, ECF is still considerably worse than TCF. There is also some indication that ECF processes may release more elemental chlorine than originally expected. Many mills are switching to ECF as a way of avoiding the upgrades for TCF. But, ECF is only a half-step on the way to less toxic bleaching. We recommend using post-consumer content recycled paper over an ECF paper.

Chlorine Free Product
Any product produced without the use of chlorine chemistries, including elemental chlorine gas, chlorine compounds and chlorine derivatives.

Tree Free Definitions

Tree Free Products
Products made from agricultural residue or agricultural fibres.

Agricultural Residue
Usable materials recovered primarily from annual crops as by-products of food and fiber production.

Agricultural Fibres
Fibres harvested from non-wood plants that are grown intentionally for tree free paper or other fibre products.