Q: Does the paper industry cut down more trees than it plants?
A: No. In every country that supplies significant amounts of pulp to Europe, at least two trees are planted for every one cut down. In Finland and Sweden, the rules stipulate three. In managed forests, trees are grown as a crop to be harvested (like corn in a field) and can either be mixed or single species. Just like a farmer, the papermaker would be mad not to replant his raw materials and thus provide for future supplies.

Q: What new fibres can be used for papermaking?
A: There are many alternate fibres which can be used in the papermaking process. Read more here: LINK TO ALTERNATIVE FIBRE PAPERS

Q: Is the paper industry destroying the Brazilian Rainforest?
A: No. Wood sources for paper and board are managed forests (coniferous softwoods) which, because of their longer fibres give added strength characteristics to paper. Tropical hardwoods – rainforest trees – are not suitable for papermaking. A limited amount of pulp is made from hardwoods such as birch and aspen, occurring in temperature climates.

Eucalyptus, originally a native of the New World, has been successfully cultivated in other warm climates for its high quality pulp. Apart from whole trees, the industry now uses vast quantities of ‘small dimension’ wood (e.g. plantation thinnings and sawmill waste) for a large proportion of its wood requirements.

Q: Why is bleaching used in pulp manufacture?
A: The AOX (adsorbable organo-halogens) quantity in the process water of pulp mills has decreased spectacularly during the past decades. Increasingly, substances such as chlorine dioxide, ozone, hydrogen peroxide and oxygen are being used in the bleaching process instead of elemental chlorine.

Q: What is the paper industry doing to achieve responsible use of energy?
A: There is no doubt that the industry is a large consumer of energy, although the amount expended to produce each ton of material is diminishing all the time as manufacturing processes improve. Over the last ten years, energy consumption per ton has been cut back by 30%.

Mills achieve high fuel conversion efficiencies by using steam to both drive turbines and then dry the product. By and large, chemical pulp mills provide their own energy requirements by burning parts of the tree that cannot be converted to paper as well as incinerating the black liquor which is a by-product of the bleaching process.

Because of its pioneering work in this and other areas, the UK papermaking industry is cited by the government as an example to others. If recycled papers continue to increase in popularity, this could have a significant impact on energy consumption because the cellulose fibres have already been separated in the original pulping process.

Q: What is recycled paper?
A: Plainly stated, recycled paper is a grade of paper that contains recycled (post-consumer and/or pre-consumer) fibre. There are recycled paper grades that range from 10% post-consumer to 100% post-consumer recycled. Some countries have developed guidelines for federally funded purchases that require a minimum of 30% post-consumer content for uncoated printing and writing paper. These standards are generally accepted as de facto (but voluntary) national standards.

Q: What is Eco-labelling?
A: It is the best prospect yet for a universal system of judging ecological issues and helping customers to avoid being misled by a multitude of varying labels and marks. It is a huge project, initiated by the European Community and covers everything from textiles to cat litter. Whatever the product, an Eco-label will only be awarded if it satisfies a stringent analysis of the manufacturing process, from cradle to grave.

Q: How does recycling affect the quality of paper produced?
A: Repeated recycling downgrades cellulose fibres by shortening and weakening them. The process of separating out inks and the glues used in bookbinding also contributes to a weaker, limper sheet. It therefore, follows that designers and printers must always consider the fitness of purpose of any recycled sheet. Although the quality is improving all the time, it is fair to say that recycled paper makes good sense in lower grade applications which will not demand over-ambitious printing and finishing techniques. It is generally accepted that recycled paper is prone to dusting, dot gain and inevitable inconsistency of quality and specific printing techniques are required for successful results.

  • Due to the variability of waste material, variations in shade may occur and the degree of dirt may be greater.
  • Strength properties may be less than for corresponding grammages of a virgin quality fibre i.e. tear, burst and tensile strength
  • Other properties may also be slightly more variable i.e. opacity, caliper, rigidity, etc.

Q: Does the production of recycled paper require more energy than conventional paper?
A: This is a classic example of how to tell lies with statistics. In fact, the manufacture of recycled paper typically uses only half the energy needed for conventional virgin pulp. The extra energy costed in was the energy cost in transporting collected waste paper for recycling.

This is wrong on two counts:

  • it doesn’t include the energy costs of collecting waste paper for landfill or incineration on the other side of the balance, which are inescapable if you don’t recycle the paper.
  • waste paper collection costs are distorted because there are presently so few mills taking the waste, and most of those that do are well away from the main sources of the waste. This increases the miles it has to travel, and inflates the energy cost.

Waste paper collection may not yet be as efficient as it could and should be – but that is not a good argument against doing it!

Q: Paper is biodegradable in landfill, so why bother recycling?
A: Paper is biodegradable but in the conditions of a landfill site it can take fifty years to break down. According to the Paper Federations some five million tonnes of paper and board end up in landfill sites every year. Recycling that paper waste instead will reduce the need for landfill, create jobs and help to ease pressure on forest resources. Buying recycled grades will help stimulate the market for recovered fibre and recycling the paper when you’re finished will complete the cycle.

Q: What is Greenwash?
A: Greenwash is a term used to describe misleading claims used by an organisation so as to present an environmentally responsible public image, when it has not doing much for the environment. For example, making a claim that a paper is “environmentally friendly” when is contains ECF pulp and 10% recycled material could be seen as greenwash. That isn’t because its environmental credentials are poor, but because most papers at least meet the same standard – it would thus be claiming too much.

Q: Is recycled paper better for the environment than virgin paper?
A: Yes! It’s common sense that making new paper from old paper is easier on the Earth.

Here’s why:

  • It helps preserve forests, because it reduces demand for wood;
  • It conserves resources and generates less pollution during manufacturing, because the fibres have already been processed once; and
  • It reduces solid waste, because it diverts usable paper from the waste stream

Q: Does paper recycling save trees?
A: Recycling reduces the total number of trees that are cut down to make paper and can reduce overall demand for wood. But more importantly, paper recycling saves forests. By substituting used paper for trees, recycling reduces the overall intensity of forest management needed to meet a given demand for paper, and the pressure to convert natural forests and ecologically sensitive areas like wetlands into tree plantations.

Q: Which takes more energy to produce, recycled or virgin paper?
A: Producing recycled paper uses much less total energy than producing virgin paper. Depending on the grade, producing recycled paper may use more or less purchased energy (a subset of total energy), in the form of fossil fuels and purchased electricity. Virgin freesheet grades require slightly less purchased energy to produce than recycled ones, because some of their energy needs are met by burning wood-derived process waste.

Q: How does switching to recycled paper reduce greenhouse gas emissions?
A: The environmental advantages of recycled paper hold true even when more fossil fuelderived energy is used to produce it. (As noted above, this is true only for freesheet grades.) In the landfill, where 80% of discarded paper ends up, the decomposition of paper produces methane, a greenhouse gas with 21 times the heat-trapping power of carbon dioxide. Paper recycling recovers used paper from the waste stream, directly reducing the amount of paper landfilled. Thus for recycled papers, any increase in greenhouse gas emissions during manufacturing is more than outweighed by reductions in emissions from landfills.

Q: What other manufacturing impacts are reduced by switching to recycled paper?
A: Aside from reducing total energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, switching to recycled paper cuts emissions of other air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides (which contribute to smog), and particulates (which contribute to respiratory problems). It also reduces the volume and improves the quality of wastewater from the paper mill.

Q: Given that paper mills are typically located near forests and far from sources of wastepaper, what about the energy needed to transport recovered paper to mills?
A: Lifecycle analysis shows that even after the energy used to collect, transport, and process used paper is accounted for, the recycled paper system uses much less total energy than the virgin paper system. This is because the energy needed to recover used paper and get it back to the mill is quite small relative to the energy saved by using recovered paper rather than trees to manufacture new paper.

Q: What about the sludge from recycled paper mills?
A: Recycled mills do generate more solid waste, mostly in the form of sludge, than virgin paper mills. However, that increase is more than offset by the reduction in solid waste that comes from diverting paper from the waste stream. And the same inks, coatings, and fillers present in recycling mill sludge would go into the ground anyway if the paper were landfilled instead of recycled. Finally, recyclers are increasingly finding ways to reclaim and reutilize some components of recycled paper sludge, which can’t happen if that paper goes to a landfill or incinerator.

Q: If recycled paper is ultimately landfilled, how does recycling reduce solid waste?
A: Each time paper is diverted from the waste stream and used to make recycled paper, there is a direct reduction in solid waste. Think of it this way – if you use a piece of paper once, then erase and use it again before throwing it away, you create less waste than if you used two pieces of paper and threw them both away. Similarly, even if a sheet of recycled paper is eventually landfilled, the recycling process still reduces the total amount of paper landfilled.

Q: What’s the difference between post-consumer and pre-consumer recycled content?
A: Post-consumer materials are finished products that have served their intended end use and would otherwise end up in a landfill or incinerator. Pre-consumer materials include trim and scrap from manufacturing processes (e.g., the conversion of paper rolls into envelopes) and over-issue publications. Unlike pre-consumer fibre, post-consumer fibre is not typically included in paper at any significant level unless purchasers specify it. Buying paper with postconsumer recycled content achieves direct reductions in wood, water, and total energy use, releases of pollutants during manufacturing, and solid waste and greenhouse gas emissions from paper decomposing in landfills. It also supports business and community recycling programs, and creates an incentive for paper manufacturers to use more paper diverted from disposal.