The recycled paper is more sustainable than the mainly white for two reasons: the reduced use of virgin wood (used to make pulp) and savings in energy consumption used for processing.
Recycled office paper is made from reclaimed paper waste. These wastes can be pre-consumer (industry-generated paper clippings) and post-consumer (recovered paper selected by consumers for recycling.
The industrial process of paper and stationery production generates high-quality recoverable waste. The cuttings of the paper manipulations are of better quality since they do not contain ink. They are generated by cutting the paper to make notebooks and folders.
Second, are the waste paper already used by the consumer and separated by it for recycling.
How is recycled paper made?
Recycled paper can be made from pre-consumer and post-consumer waste. The latter are all those old documents, magazines, newspapers, and other waste already used by the user and that have been selected (blue container) to make recycled paper.
Recycled paper making requires less energy: separating lignin from wood requires a lot of energy. On the other hand, producing cellulose pulp from waste paper is more efficient and, in addition, we are reusing waste that would otherwise end up in a landfill. Tree felling is also avoided.
However, the process is not repeatable to infinity: the fibers are damaged with each cycle. For this reason, to make recycled paper it is common to add virgin fibers to replace lost or damaged fibers. Still, the production of recycled paper is more efficient and more sustainable than the production of white paper for copier or printer.
Is conventional paper whiter than recycled?
Formerly it was not. However, at present, some paper mills in Germany are capable of producing 100% recycled paper that is impossible to tell apart from the virgin paper at a glance. But usually, the recycled sheets are a bit darker.
In order to bleach the paper, it is necessary to use highly polluting and dangerous chemicals such as chlorine. Although there are organizations that certify the non-use of these compounds. For example, the ECF label, Elemental Chlorine Free, indicates that the paper has been bleached without using elemental chlorine. This bleaching technique prevents the formation of dioxins and other carcinogenic compounds.
Can it be recycled again?
If possible. But not to infinity. With each recycling cycle, some of the cellulose fibers degrade and deteriorate to a point where they are no longer recoverable. Therefore, it is a common practice to incorporate a percentage of cellulose pulp obtained from virgin wood pulp. This new paste compensates for the loss of fibers and allows them to extend the recycling cycles.
What are the environmental benefits?
The consumption of recycled paper reduces the use of raw materials (wood) used to make cellulose pulp. In addition, the production of this paper requires a lower amount of energy: between 40 and 64% depending on the source. There are discrepancies about the convenience of recycled paper in terms of energy consumption. Although the total use of energy is less, the recycling process uses more fossil fuels than the traditional kraft process.
Is recycled paper cheaper?
Generally no, in fact, it is somewhat more expensive. But it depends on the manufacturer, the brand, the weight, and the quality of the paper.
What other materials can be used to make it?
Surprisingly, paper can be made from an unusual and unpredictable material: elephant dung. Elephant manure contains a large number of plant fibers, which in turn contain cellulose. Extracting cellulose from this material is simpler and less expensive than extraction from virgin wood. Why does elephant dung contain cellulose?
The reason is that this animal barely digests its food. 45% of what you eat is not processed. The excrement contains the plant matter that contains the cellulose still intact. Through a chemical process, these fibers can be separated, washed, and transformed into cellulose that can be used to make pulp.