Essay On Paper Recycling

Paper Recycling

Paper recycling pertains to the processes of reprocessing waste paper for reuse. Waste papers are either obtained from paper mill paper scraps, discarded paper materials, and waste paper material discarded after consumer use. Examples of the commonly known papers recycled are old newspapers and magazines.

Other forms like corrugated, wrapping, and packaging papers among other types of paper are usually checked for recycling suitability before the process. The papers are collected from the waste locations then sent to paper recycling facilities. The subtopics below provide a detailed explanation of the steps used in paper recycling.

Paper is one the material that can be easily recycled. Recycled paper is paper that was made from paper and paper products that has already been used and recovered. People need to take their time and save the paper products so that they can be recycled. Paper recycling begins with us. We all need to show our interest in recycling to make it successful.

The Paper recycling activity can start at school, college, home, office, local community and even at drop off centers. We all need to understand what products can be recycled before staring the recycling process and how to properly prepare them for the recycling.

Process of Paper Recycling

The step by step process of Paper Recycling

  1. Collection

Recyclers and paper merchants collect the paper materials from collection points such as trash bins, paper stores, paper scrap yards, and commercial outlets that generate paper waste. Paper is collected from the bin and deposited in the large recycling container along with the paper from the other recycle bins.  After collection, they are then measured, graded for quality, and hauled to recycling paper mill facilities.

This is the first process in the paper recycling process. Once the paper is collected from the recycle bins it is taken to the recycling plant where the waste paper is sorted and separated into types and grades.

With the arrival at the paper mill recycling facility, the papers are further checked for quality (cleanliness and type of paper) and quantity as purchasing contracts are issued based on these checks. Checking of the paper quality is also used to determine whether the type of waste paper is accepted or rejected. There are recyclers that accept mixed grades of recovered paper while some only accept preferred quality of waste paper grades.

  1. Sorting

Once accepted at the recycling facility, the papers are further sorted based on quantity and paper value by assessing the materials that were used to make the paper. In most cases, the papers are classified according to their surface treatment and structure.

For instance, the very thin lightweight paper materials like newspapers are put separately from the thick paper materials like the ones used as paper folders. Sorting is important since paper mills produce different grades of paper materials based on the materials being recovered.

  1. Shredding and Pulping

Once sorting is finished, the next step involves shredding followed with pulping. Shredding is done to break down the paper materials into small bits. After the material is finely shredded to bits, it is mixed with water and chemicals to breakdown the paper fiber materials. It turns the paper materials into a slurry substance, a process termed as pulping.

During the process of pulping, a large amount of water is added to the waste paper to produce pulp. Once pulp is produced it is then passed through a series of screens to remove larger pieces of contaminants for e.g.: inks, staples, plastic film and glue. The pulp material is then mixed up with new pulp to help the slurry substance solidify and form a firmer end product. The clean paper pulp is then placed in the machine that uses centrifugal cleaning to spin more of the debris from the paper pulp.

  1. Filtering, conterminal removal and De-Inking

The slurry substance is then taken through a comprehensive filtering process to get rid of all the non-fibrous foreign materials present or any impurities such as strings, tape or glue. The pulp further goes into a chamber where contaminants like plastics and metals staples are removed by use of a centrifuge-like process. Light materials such as plastics float on top while the heavy materials like metals fall to the bottom for elimination.

The next process, de-inking, involves putting the pulp in a floatation device made up of chemicals and air bubbles that takes away any form of dyes or ink to enhance purity and whiteness. Hydrogen peroxide may also be used to further bleach the pulp. This entire step is also called the cleaning process as it cleans the pulp over and over to ensure it is ready for the final processing stage.

  1. Finishing for reuse

This is the final stage of paper recycling. The cleaned pulp is blended with new production materials after which, it is put to dry on a flat conveyor belt and heated cylindrical surfaces. As the pulp dries, it is passed through an automated machine that presses out excess water. By the time the pulp is solid, it is passed through steam heated cylinders that facilitates the formation of flattened long rolls of continuous sheets of paper.

The resultant paper sheets are then trimmed, rolled, and sent to various business outlets or manufactures that use paper to make their products. Newspaper printing, wrapping papers, printing papers, and blown-in cellulose insulators are a few examples of areas where recycled papers are used.

If you have a keen interest in knowing how the paper is recycled, you can make a visit to your nearby recycling plant and see how the waste paper undergoes recycling process. Most companies share process and information with people to make them understand better how the recycling process takes place and encourage them to participate in this process.

The whole recycling process for a newspaper takes around seven days. Study suggests that paper can be recycled approximately seven times. Each time the paper is recycled, it’s length decreases which impacts it’s strength. These recycled products always bear recycling logo so you can make sure that you buy environmentally safe techniques. This helps in cleaning the environment and reducing the landfills.


Image credit: pixabay


Rinkesh is passionate about clean and green energy. He is running this site since 2009 and writes on various environmental and renewable energy related topics. He lives a green lifestyle and is often looking for ways to improve the environment around him.

Latest posts by Rinkesh (see all)


An Introduction to Paper Recycling

Paper recycling may be defined as a range of activities associated with the recovery and processing of scrap paper so that it can be used in the production of new paper products.   

Some Quick Paper Recycling Facts and Figures

  • According to the National Recycling Coalition (NRC), newspaper, corrugated cardboard, magazines, and mixed paper are four of the ten most important materials to recycle. 
  • The amount of paper ending up in U.S. landfills annually has decreased from 41 million tons in 2000 to 21 million tons in 2014.  
  • The paper recycling rate in the U.S. in 1990 was 33.5 percent. By 2013 and 2014, the rates had increased to 63.5 percent and 65.4 percent respectively. AF&PA member companies have set a goal to reach an overall paper recycling rate of 70 percent in the U.S by 2020.
  • While the recycling rate for newsprint rose from 67.5 percent in 2013 to 68.9 percent in 2014, the total volume of material recovered is declining, due to lower newsprint consumption.
  • The recycling rate for old corrugated cardboard (OCC) is greater than 90 percent, making it easily the most recycled packaging material, versus 71 percent for other types of paper packaging, 35 percent for aluminum, 33 percent for glass, and 13 percent for plastic. 
  • Paper is one of the most recycled materials in the UK as well. Two-thirds of yearly paper wastes generated in the UK are recycled.
  • If recycled paper is used as the raw material of new paper, it produces 73 percent less air pollution, 35 percent less water pollution and requires 75 percent less processed energy than the amounts required to produce new paper production using only virgin wood.
  • Use of each ton of recycled paper in the production of new paper saves 7,000 gallons of water, 4,000 KW of energy, three cubic meters of landfill space, 380 gallons of oil, and 17 trees.
  • It takes around 24 trees to produce one ton of newspaper.
  • Every American uses around 680 pounds of paper per year.
  • Every year, scrap paper which would be the equivalent of one billion trees is thrown away in the United States alone.  
  • 40 percent of all waste materials that go to landfills are paper and paper materials.

The History of Paper Recycling

The first large scale paper recycling is believed to take place during the World War I in the U.S. In the Second World War, paper recycling once again received a significant boost caused by the need for materials. With the passage of time, the paper recycling rate slowly increased and according to sources, around 75 percent of paper and paperboard mills in the United States use recovered paper in the production of new paper. The same report states that 40 percent of the mills rely only on recycled paper.

Recyclable and Non-recyclable Paper

Nearly all kinds of papers are recyclable. Paper items which are not typically acceptable in collection bins include brown and craft envelopes, carbon paper, paper towels, tissues, candy wrappers, coffee cups, and pizza boxes.  Some of the most commonly recycled paper items include cardboard, newsprint and magazines, manuals and booklets, and assorted office papers.

The Paper Recycling Process

The paper recycling process involves a number of steps, including collection, transportation, sorting, processing into usable raw materials and finally using that raw material to produce new paper products:

Collection: Waste papers are collected from collection bins and deposited in a big recycling container along with the paper collected from other collection bins. So, all kinds of paper go into a single large container.

Transportation: All the recovered or collected paper waste then get transported to the paper recycling plant on a collection van or truck.

Sorting: After getting transported into recycling plants, papers are sorted into different paper categories such as cardboard, newspapers, newsprint, magazine paper, computer paper etc. as different types of papers are treated differently in the next stages of the process to produce different types of recycled paper products.

Processing the Paper into Usable Raw Material: This is the main stage in a paper recycling process. There are multiple functions in the processing phase which include the following:   

Making Pulp or Slurry: Pulping involves water and chemicals. In order to pulp the paper, machines first chop it before water and chemicals are added. Then the mixture is heated to break the paper down more quickly into paper fibers. Finally, the mixtures turn into a mushy mix, known as a slurry or pulp.

Pulp Screening and Cleaning:To remove contaminationfromthe pulp, the pulp is forced through screens with holes of different sizes and shapes to remove contaminants such as globs of glue and bits of plastic. If the pulp still contains any heavy contaminants such as staples, the pulp may also be spun around in huge cone-shaped cylinders. The cylinders throw the heavy contaminants out of the cone using centripetal force while light contaminants go to the center of the cone and are removed.

De-inking: After screening and cleaning come de-inking, which involves removing ink from the paper fibers of the pulp while sticky materials known as “stickies” such as adhesives and glue residue are also separated. De-inking is achieved through a combination of mechanical actions (shredding and the addition of chemicals). Light and small ink particles are removed using water while heavier and larger particles are removed using air bubbles in a process called flotation.

Refining, Color Stripping, and Bleaching: In the refining stage, the pulp is beaten to make the paper fibers swell. Beating the pulp also separates individual fibers to facilitate new paper production from the separated fibers. In case coloring is required, color stripping chemicals are added to the fibers to get rid of the dyes from the paper. In this process, brown papers are obtained. When the goal is to produce white recycled paper, the pulp is bleached with oxygen, chlorine dioxide, or hydrogen peroxide to make them brighter or whiter.

New Papermaking: In the final stage of the paper recycling process, the cleaned paper pulp is then ready to be used in the production of new paper. Normally, the pulp is blended with virgin wood fibers to provide the new paper with added smoothness and strength. The recycled paper fibers can be used alone as well, however.

At this stage, the paper pulp is mixed with chemicals and hot water. The percentage of hot water in the mixture is far greater than that of paper fibers and chemicals. After that, the mixture is fed into the headbox of a papermaking machine and is sprayed in a continuous jet onto a large wire-mesh-like screen moving very fast through the machine. As the water from the mixture starts to drain out, the recycled paper fibers start to bond together to form a watery sheet. Then, the sheet moves quickly through a series of felt-cover press-rollers that squeeze out more water from the paper pulp and it comes out as freshly manufactured paper.

Paper Recycling Industry Associations

The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA)AF&PA is the national trade association of forest product industry which represents all the paper based products producing companies in the country and promotes sustainable U.S. forest products in the international marketplace. The AF&PA members produce around 75 percent of paper based products in the U.S.

Independent Waste Paper Processors Association (IWPPA)Established in 1975, IWPPA is the trade association for companies in the paper product industry in the UK. The association has a total of 80 member companies with a combined yearly turnover of more than £2 billion. The members of the association produce over 2 million tons of recyclate.

The Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI) CPI is another trade association for UK paper based product producers and recyclers with over 70 member companies. CPI member companies have an aggregate yearly turnover of £6.5 billion.

European Recovered Paper Association (ERPA) ERPA is a European trade association that represents recovered paper federations of different European countries. The paper recovery and recycling federations from Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Finland are members of ERPA.  

Business Opportunities in Paper Recycling

Paper recycling is a well-established, and capital-intensive industry. Paper recycling can be a useful extension of services for companies that recycle other materials. And at the entrepreneurial level, however, there are opportunities available in the provision of services such as collection, transportation, and sorting.

Where in the past, recyclers were likely to remove only a specific recyclable material from a customer, such as pallets or scrap metal, service-oriented recyclers today are increasingly offering to remove several recyclable materials from customers at the same time. Old corrugated cardboard (OCC) is is more frequently being collected as part of dock sweep programs, where a recycler will remove a range of recyclable products from a location at the same time, on the same truck. Such programs are attractive to customers in terms of helping them to remove the materials on a timely basis rather than having to wait to accumulate a full load of a single material.

One entrepreneurial activity associated with paper recycling is that of paper shredding. According to insiders, an investment in the $30,000 to $60,000 range would be required to purchase a truck and shredding machine combination. Revenue is derived from businesses requiring confidential shredding services, as well as from selling the shredded paper to the recycling plant. 

Paper Recycling Legislation

The requirements for recycling paper in the U.S. vary from state to state. Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia have all passed laws requiring that all paper grades are recycled.

California requires that businesses recycle newspaper. In Connecticut, it is mandatory that all waste generators recycle newspaper, magazines and white and colored office paper while options for recycling telephone books and discarded mail are left to local jurisdictions in that state. Maine, South Dakota, and Virginia have also adopted targeted mandatory paper recycling requirements.

Current Trends in Paper Recycling,

The paper recycling rate continues to improve. The industry has been negatively impacted by depressed global prices and challenges associated with contamination during the curbside recycling process. One positive development has been an increase in curbside OCC generation, which is attributed to the growth of e-commerce and home delivery. In fact, paper is increasingly used more for packaging and less for communication, resulting in an evolving mix of material being generated. 



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *