what is paper recycling
April 5, 2015 Paper Recycling 5 Comments

How is Paper Recycled Its Impact on Environment


Paper recycling is the process of mixing used paper with water and chemicals to break it down. This mixture is then chopped up and heated to break it down further into strands of cellulose called pulp or slurry. It is then strained through screens which remove any glue or plastic that may still be in the mixture. Finally it is cleaned, de-inked, bleached, mixed with water and then it can be made into new recycled paper.

Types of Paper

3 categories of paper which are used for making recycled paper:

Mill broke
Pre-consumer waste
Post-consumer waste

Mill broke is recycled internally in a paper mill. It is paper trimmings and other paper scrap from the manufacture of paper.

Pre-consumer waste is material which left the paper mill but was discarded before it was ready for consumer use.

Post-consumer waste is material discarded after consumer use such as old magazines, newspapers old corrugated containers (OCC).

Paper Recycling Process

We can break down the process of making recycled paper as below

Paper Recycling process


You must keep your paper free from contaminants like plastic, food, metal etc because this hampers recycling process. Contaminated paper which cannot be recycled must be composted, burned or land filled because successful recycling requires clean recovered paper. Recycling centres usually ask that you sort by type of paper.

Collection and Transportation

You may take your sorted paper to a local recycling centre or recycling bin. Often recycling centre will collect recovered paper from your home or office. The collected paper is wrapped in tight bales and transported to a paper mill where it will be recycled into new paper.


In warehouses the various paper grades are kept separate because the paper mill uses different grades of recovered paper to make different types of recycled products. When the paper mill is ready to use the paper, forklifts move the paper from the house to large conveyors

Re-pulping and Screening

The paper moves by conveyor to a big vat (pulper) which contains water and chemical agents. Pulper chops the recovered paper into small piece and heat the mixture to breaks the paper down more quickly into tiny strands of cellulose (fibres). Eventually, the old paper turns into a mushy mixture called pulp which is forced through screens containing holes and slots. The screens remove small contaminants. This is called screening


Mills also clean pulp by spinning it around in large cylinders. Lighter contaminants collect in the center of the cone. Heavy contaminants like staples are thrown to the outside of the cone. This process is called cleaning.


Sometimes the pulp must undergo deinking (de-inking) to remove printing ink. Papermakers often use a combination of two deinking processes. Larger particles and stickies are removed with air bubbles in the process called flotation during which pulp is fed into a large vat called a flotation cell. Here, air and soap-like chemicals called surfactants are injected into the pulp which causes ink to loosen from the pulp and stick to the air bubbles as they float to the top of the mixture, which is removed from the top, leaving the clean pulp behind. Particles of ink smaller in size are rinsed from the pulp with water in a process called washing.

Refining, Bleaching and Colour Stripping

During refining, the pulp is beaten to make the recycled fibres swell making them ideal for paper making. Refining separates individual fibres, if pulp contains any large bundles of fibres. Colour stripping chemicals remove the dyes from the paper, if the recovered paper is coloured. If white recycled paper is being made, the pulp may need to be bleached to make it whiter and brighter. No bleaching is required if brown recycled paper is being made.

Paper Making

The recycled fibre can be used alone or blended with new wood fibre to give it extra strength and smoothness. Pulp is mixed with water and chemicals to make it 99.5% water. This watery pulp mixture enters a giant metal box at the beginning of the paper machine. It is then sprayed in a continuous wide jet onto a huge flat wire screen which is moving very quickly through the paper machine.

On the screen, water starts to drain from the pulp. The recycled fibres quickly begin to bond together to form a watery sheet which moves rapidly through a series of felt-covered press rollers which squeeze out more water.

The sheet now passes through a series of heated metal rollers to dry the paper. A coating mixture can be applied at the end of the process or in a separate process after the papermaking is completed, if coated paper is being made. Coating gives paper a smooth and glossy surface.

The finished paper is wound into a giant roll and removed from the paper machine. 1 roll can be as wide as 30 ft and weigh as much as 20 tons.

Paper Recycling Facts & Figures


  • 1 ton of paper recycling saves up to 17 trees which is equal to 4,000 kWh of energy, 3.5 cubic meters of landfill space, 1.7 barrels (270 liters) of oil, 10.2 million Btu’s of energy and 26,000 liters of water
  • Paper recycling saves 65% of the energy needed to make new
  • Recycling paper also reduces air pollution by 74% and water pollution by 35%
  • Recycled material was used for making world’s first sheet of paper
  • Paper recycling is as old as paper itself
  • A typical newsprint machine produces as many as 500 tons of paper every day
  • 1 ton of paper would generate about 750 kilograms of carbon dioxide on burning
  • 1 ton of corrugated containers recycling saves 390 kWh of energy, 1 barrel of oil and 5 cubic meters of landfill
  • Recycling cardboard requires only 75% of the energy required to make new cardboard


Benefits of Paper Recycling


  • Paper recycling decreases greenhouse gas emissions, which contributes to climate change by avoiding methane emissions
  • Contributes to carbon sequestration
  • Extends the fiber supply
  • Saves considerable landfill space
  • Decreases the need for disposal
  • Reduces energy and water consumption


Paper Recycling Impact on Environment


Positive Effects

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found that recycling causes 74% less air pollution and 35% less water pollution than making virgin paper. Modern mills produce less pollution than old mills. Old pulp mills can be sources of both air and water pollution, especially if they are producing bleached pulp. Paper recycling decreases the demand for virgin pulp and hence reduces the overall amount of air and water pollution associated with paper manufacture.

Negative Effects

Recycling paper has many advantages but it uses caustic chemicals which in turn produce harmful by products and emissions. Although recycling paper saves 28 to 70 percent, this savings is controversial because it uses fossil fuels and timber. Recycled paper is less energy-friendly than plastic. The paper bag recycling process uses 98 percent more energy than that for recycled plastic bags. Recycling facilities employ chemicals ranging from detergents to caustic chemicals, such as chlorine. You can also dig into for more details negative effects of recycling paper by livestrong.com

Paper Recycling At Home, Office & Schools

The first step in office paper recycling is to identify a recycling agent in your area. You can do this by contacting the manager in charge of the region where your office is situated. A list of paper types that can be recycled is always helpful.

The amount of waste paper generated in your office will determine how frequently you can have the paper collected. Agents will only collect from your office once you have sufficient paper, due to cost involved in transportation. Until then recycle bins can be used to store recyclable paper in a suitably dry utility room, basement or garage.

Alternatively, you may also choose to deliver recyclable paper to your nearest recycling facility, a task which can easily be worked into standard delivery schedules to save on costs.

Using Paper Recycled Products

Stationary Products


Tote bags

Tote bags made from recycled paper are truer to the spirit of the item. Depending on the style, these bags can be quite fashionable. These also can be standalone gifts or you can use them as a decorative holder for a larger gift.

Paper vase

Vases make good gifts and paper vases made from recycled paper are better. These use a mix of old magazines and newspapers which makes them more colourful. Recycled paper vases creators often use traditional basket-making methods and they are often dipped in glue resulting is a sturdy vase. These paper vases also often come with some type of liner so the vases can hold water.

Gift tags

Many recycled gift tags are made out of innovative materials e.g. one artist used colourful cardboard tissue boxes as the base material for the recycled gift tags.

Paper handbags

Recycled candy wrappers can be used to form intricate woven handbags.

Picture frames

Old newspapers and magazines can be utilized to make good picture frames because while they provide illustration and color, they don’t overwhelm your photo. Recycled paper picture frames are tightly woven, like a basket, and usually treated with a solution for better handling and endurance.

Holiday decorations

Recycled paper holiday decorations are among the most unique items on the list.

Newspaper placemat

Some recycled newspaper placemats use old plastic tablecloths (often from on outdoor picnic tables) to provide a smooth, hygienic front for the spot where your plate goes as they are lightweight and sturdy.

Paper Recycling Facts & Statistics


European Union

In Europe, paper recycling has a long history and has grown into a mature organization. Paper recycling rate in Europe was 54.6% or 45.5 million tons in 2004. In 2007, the recycling rate in Europe reached 64.5% which was approximately 66% by 2010.


In Japan, municipal collections of paper for recycling are in place.

United States

In U.S. recycling has been a long practice. Paper and paper board accounted for 68 million tons of municipal solid waste generated in the U.S. in 2010, which was more than 87 million tons in 2000.

Other Usefull Resources

How Paper is Recycled
Everything You Need to Know About Paper Recycling
Paper Recycling Machines
Recycling facts and figures
More on About Recycling Paper
Paper Recycling at Home



Written by greenotechadmin