Paper recycling: Wikis


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Barge filled with waste , on the Hudson River in New York City.
Recycling symbol.svg
3R Concepts

Paper recycling is the process of recovering waste paper and remaking it into new paper products. There are three categories of paper that can be used as feedstocks for making recycled paper: mill broke, pre-consumer waste, and post-consumer waste.[1] Mill broke is paper trimmings and other paper scrap from the manufacture of paper, and is recycled internally in a paper mill. Pre-consumer waste is material that was discarded before it was ready for consumer use. Post-consumer waste is material discarded after consumer use such as old magazines, old newspapers, office waste, old telephone directories, and residential mixed paper.[2] Paper suitable for recycling is called "scrap paper".


Rationale for recycling

Industrialized paper making has an effect on the environment both upstream (where raw materials are acquired and processed) and downstream (waste-disposal impacts).[3] Recycling paper reduces this impact.

Today, 90% of paper pulp is made of wood. Paper production accounts for about 35% of felled trees,[4] and represents 1.2% of the world's total economic output.[5] Recycling of newsprint saves about 1 ton of wood while recycling 1 ton (1.1 short tons) of printing or copier paper saves slightly more than 2 tons of wood.[citation needed] This is because kraft pulping requires twice as much wood since it removes lignin to produce higher quality fibres than mechanical pulping processes. Relating tons of paper recycled to the number of trees not cut is meaningless, since tree size varies tremendously and is the major factor in how much paper can be made from how many trees.[6] Trees raised specifically for pulp production account for 16% of world pulp production, old growth forests 9% and second- and third- and more generation forests account for the balance.[4] Most pulp mill operators practice reforestation to ensure a continuing supply of trees.[citation needed] The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certifies paper made from trees harvested according to guidelines meant to ensure good forestry practices.[7] It has been estimated that recycling half the world’s paper would avoid the harvesting of 20 million acres (80,000 km²) of forestland.[8]



Energy consumption is reduced by recycling, although there is debate concerning the actual energy savings realized. The EIA claims a 40% reduction in energy when paper is recycled versus paper made with unrecycled pulp.[9] while the Bureau of International Recycling, BIR, claims a 64% reduction.[10] Some calculations show that recycling one ton of newspaper saves about 4,000 kW·h (14 GJ) of electricity, although this may be too high (see comments below on unrecycled pulp). This is enough electricity to power a 3-bedroom European house for an entire year, or enough energy to heat and air-condition the average North American home for almost six months.[11] Recycling paper to make pulp may actually consume more fossil fuels than making new pulp via the kraft process, however, since these mills generate all of their energy from burning waste wood (bark, roots) and byproduct lignin.[12] Pulp mills producing new mechanical pulp use large amounts of energy; a very rough estimate of the electrical energy needed is 10 gigajoules per tonne of pulp (2500 kW·h per short ton),[13] usually from hydroelectric generating plants. Recycling mills purchase most of their energy from local power companies, and since recycling mills tend to be in urban areas, it is likely that the electricity is generated by burning fossil fuels.

Landfill use

About 35% of municipal solid waste (before recycling) by weight is paper and paper products.[14] Recycling 1 ton of newspaper eliminates 3 cubic metres of landfill.[15] Incineration of waste paper is usually preferable to landfilling since useful energy is generated. Organic materials, including paper, decompose in landfills, albeit sometimes slowly, releasing methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Many larger landfills now collect this methane for use as a biogas fuel. In highly urbanized areas, such as the northeastern US and most of Europe, land suitable for landfills is scarce and must be used carefully. Fortunately, it is in such areas that collection of waste paper is also most efficient, as it creates more jobs for people and saves space in landfills.

Water and air pollution

The United States Environmental Protection Agency‎ (EPA) has found that recycling causes 35% less water pollution and 74% less air pollution than making virgin paper.[16] Pulp mills can be sources of both air and water pollution, especially if they are producing bleached pulp. Modern mills produce considerably less pollution than those of a few decades ago. Recycling paper decreases the demand for virgin pulp and thus reduces the overall amount of air and water pollution associated with paper manufacture. Recycled pulp can be bleached with the same chemicals used to bleach virgin pulp, but hydrogen peroxide and sodium hydrosulfite are the most common bleaching agents. Recycled pulp, or paper made from it, is known as PCF (process chlorine free) if no chlorine-containing compounds were used in the recycling process.[17] However it should be noted that recycling mills may have polluting by-products, such as sludge. De-inking at Cross Pointe's Miami, Ohio mill results in sludge weighing 22% of the weight of wastepaper recycled.[18]


Some of the claimed benefits of paper recycling have fallen under criticism; criticized areas include the claim that recycling saves trees, reduces energy consumption, reduces pollution, creates desirable jobs, and saves money.

Recycling facts and figures

In the mid-19th century, there was an increased demand for books and writing material. Up to that time, paper manufacturers had used discarded linen rags for paper, but supply could not keep up with the increased demand. Books were bought at auctions for the purpose of recycling fiber content into new paper, at least in the United Kingdom, by the beginning of the 19th century.[19]

Internationally, about half of all recovered paper comes from converting losses (pre-consumer recycling), such as shavings and unsold periodicals; approximately one third comes from household or post-consumer waste.[20]

Some statistics on paper consumption:

  • The average per capita paper use worldwide was 110 pounds (50 kg).[21]
  • It is estimated that 95% of business information is still stored on paper. [Source: International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) Discussion Paper (IIED, London, September 1996)]
  • Recycling 1 short ton (0.91 t) of paper saves 17 mature trees, 7 thousand US gallons (26 m3) of water, 3 cubic yards (2.3 m3) of landfill space, 2 barrels of oil (84 US gal or 320 l), and 4,100 kilowatt-hours (15 GJ) of electricity — enough energy to power the average American home for six months.[22]
  • Although paper is traditionally identified with reading and writing, communications has now been replaced by packaging as the single largest category of paper use at 41% of all paper used. [Source: North American Factbook PPI, 1995. (Figures are for 1993)]
  • 115 billion sheets of paper are used annually for personal computers [Source: Worldwatch Institute]. The average daily web user prints 28 pages daily [Source: Gartner group and HP]
  • Most corrugated fiberboard boxes have over 25% recycled fibers. Some are 100% recycled fiber.

Paper recycling by region

European Union

Paper recovery in Europe has a long history and has grown into a mature organization. The European papermakers and converters work together to meet the requirements of the European Commission and national governments. Their aim is the reduction of the environmental impact of waste during manufacturing, converting/printing, collecting, sorting and recycling processes to ensure the optimal and environmentally sound recycling of used paper and board products. In 2004, the paper recycling rate in Europe was 54.6% or 45.5 million short tons (41.3 Mt).[23] The recycling rate in Europe reached 64.5%3 in 2007, which confirms that the industry is on the path to meeting its voluntary target of 66% by 2010.[24]


Municipal collections of paper for recycling are in place. However, according to the Yomiuri Shimbun, in 2008, eight paper manufacturers in Japan have admitted to intentionally mislabeling recycled paper products, exaggerating the amount of recycled paper used.[citation needed]

United States of America

Recycling has long been practiced in the United States. The history of paper recycling has several dates of importance:

  • 1690: The first paper mill to use recycled linen was established by the Rittenhouse family.[25]
  • 1896: The first major recycling center was started by the Benedetto family in New York City, where they collected rags, newspaper, and trash with a pushcart.
  • 1993: The first year when more paper was recycled than was buried in landfills.[26]

Today, over half of the material used to make paper is recovered waste.[27] Paper products are the largest component of municipal solid waste, making up more than 40% of the composition of landfills.[28][29] In 2006, a record 53.4% of the paper used in the US (or 53.5 million tons) was recovered for recycling.[30] This is up from a 1990 recovery rate of 33.5%.[30] The US paper industry has set a goal to recover 55 percent of all the paper used in the US by 2012. Paper packaging recovery, specific to paper products used by the packaging industry, was responsible for about 76.6% of packaging materials recycled with more than 24 million pounds recovered in 2005.[31]

Twenty years ago, only one curbside recycling program existed in the United States, which collected several materials at the curb. By 1998, 9,000 curbside programs and 12,000 recyclable drop-off centers had sprouted up across the nation. As of 1999, 480 materials recovery facilities had been established to process the collected materials.[32]

In 2008, the global financial crisis had resulted in the price of old newspapers to drop in the US from $130 to $40 per short ton ($140/t to $45/t) in October.[33]

See also


  1. ^ "Debunking the Myths of Recycled Paper". Recycling Point Dot Com. Retrieved 2007-02-04. 
  2. ^ "Recycling glossary". American Forest and Paper Association. Retrieved 2007-10-20. 
  3. ^ Hershkowitz, A. (2002). Bronx ecology. Washington DC: Island Press. p. 62.
  4. ^ a b Martin, Sam (2004). "Paper Chase". Ecology Communications, Inc.. Retrieved 2007-09-21. 
  5. ^ "Trends and Current Status of the Contribution of the Forestry Sector to National Economies". Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). 2004. Retrieved 2007-09-21. 
  6. ^ Marcot, Bruce G. (1992). "How Many Recycled Newspapers Does It Take to Save A Tree?". The Ecology Plexus. Retrieved 2007-09-22. 
  7. ^ [ "Certification Tracking products from the forest to the shelf!"]. Retrieved 2007-09-21. 
  8. ^ [Source: EarthWorks Group. 1990. “The Recycler’s Handbook”. Berkeley, CA: The EarthWorks Press]
  9. ^ Recycling Paper & Glass "SavingEnergy Recycling Paper & Glass". Energy Information Administration. September 2006. Recycling Paper & Glass. Retrieved 2007-10-20. 
  10. ^ "Information about Recycling". Bureau of International Recycling. Retrieved 2007-10-20. 
  11. ^ "Recycle - Save Energy". South Carolina Electric & Gas Company.. 1991. Retrieved 2007-10-20. 
  12. ^ Jeffries, Tom (March 27, 1997). "Kraft pulping: Energy consumption and production". University of Wisconsin Biotech Center. Retrieved 2007-10-21. 
  13. ^ Biermann, Christopher J. (1993). Essentials of Pulping and Papermaking. San Diego: Academic Press, Inc.. ISBN 0-12-097360-X. 
  14. ^ "Executive Summary: Municipal Solid Waste in the United States: 2005 Facts and Figures" (PDF). US Environmental Protection Agency. 2005. Retrieved 2007-10-23. 
  15. ^ Sudbury, Jodi B. (1989). 50 Simple things you Can do to Save the Earth. Berkeley CA: Earthworks Press. ISBN 0929634063. 
  16. ^ "Recycle on the Go: Basic Information". US Environmental Protection Agency. October 18, 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-30. 
  17. ^ MacFadden, Todd; Michael P. Vogel (June 1996). "Facts About Paper". Printers' National Environmental Assistance Center, Montana State University. Retrieved 2007-10-30. 
  18. ^ "Recycling Paper and Glass". US Department of Energy. September 2006. Retrieved 2007-10-30. 
  19. ^ Howsam, Leslie (1991). Cheap Bibles: Nineteenth Century Publishing and the British and Foreign Bible Society. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 10: 0521522129. 
  20. ^ "Recovered Paper". Bureau of International Recycling. Retrieved 2007-05-20. 
  21. ^ "Paper consumption data". Retrieved 2007-11-12. 
  22. ^ "Wastes - Resource Conservation - Common Wastes & Materials - Paper Recycling". US EPA. <>
  23. ^ "ERPC Facts and Figures". European Recovered Paper Council (ERPC). Retrieved 2006-09-27. 
  24. ^ "European Declaration on Paper Recycling 2006–2010. Monitoring Report 2007". European Recovered Paper Council. Retrieved 2009-01-17. 
  25. ^ "Papermaking Moves to the United States". Robert C. Williams Paper Museum, Georgia Institute of Technology. Retrieved 2007-10-20. 
  26. ^ "Recycling in the Paper Industry". Robert C. Williams Paper Museum, Georgia Institute of Technology. Retrieved 2007-10-20. 
  27. ^ "Paper University - All About Paper". Retrieved 2007-05-20. 
  28. ^ "Municipal Solid Waste - FAQ". U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved 2007-04-28. 
  29. ^ Baird, Colin (2004) Environmental Chemistry (3rd ed.) p. 512. W. H. Freeman ISBN 0-7167-4877-0; Recycling in Ohio
  30. ^ a b "2006 Recovered Paper Annual Statistics". Paper Industry Association Council. Retrieved 2007-12-10. 
  31. ^ Data on Paper Recovery
  32. ^ "Municipal Solid Waste - Recycling". U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved 2006-04-02. 
  33. ^ Page, Candace, Waste distric raises recycling fees, Burlington Free Press, November 12, 2008

External links

 This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Government document "".


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