Consider a recycled envelope. What is it exactly? What is it that makes an envelope “recycled”?
Ok. So it’s green. But what exactly does that mean?
It means that the paper is made in such a way that water and energy use is less than in the conventional paper manufacturing process, that tree harvesting is reduced, and that waste products are decreased.
74% of the 750,000 tonnes of office paper used each year is thrown away so landfill is reduced by using recycled paper products.
Because less bleaching is needed, then the amount of toxic chemicals used is decreased.
The virgin paper industry is a large scale emitter of greenhouse gases. The recycled paper industry isn’t.
Some tree plantations for the production of paper pulp have been planted in deforested areas. As one tonne of recycled paper is equivalent to 6 trees, the more recycled paper is used, the less trees need to be planted for virgin paper production, meaning the likelihood of deforestation for new plantations decreases.
“Errr…it’s made up of old paper?”
Well yes, it is, but there are all kinds of sources of paper that can be recycled and those are split into grades, including cardboard, newsprint and office paper. The source of the recycled paper determines what the final quality paper product is like. A large amount of the waste scraps from the process of making fresh paper and paper products such as envelopes is recycled.
The used paper is then shredded, washed, and mashed to make a watery pulp. This is then processed to make paper.
“So recycled means what exactly?”
Well that is a good question. There are different definitions of what recycled actually means. A product can be called recycled for instance, when a portion of the fibre is recycled and the rest is virgin. Actually, there will always be a need for some virgin pulp as fibres can only be recycled a number of times before they disintegrate. When you buy recycled paper you can see on the product description the % of the paper that is recycled content.
“And what about the ink?”
The ink needs to be removed before the paper can be recycled and is done by the de-inking process. This is achieved using chemicals and mechanical action to detach the ink from the fibres to create deinked pulp.
Using recycled products for making paper isn’t new. The first American paper mill, built by the Rittenhouse family on the banks of Wissahickon Creek, near Philadelphia, was in fact a recycling mill, producing paper from old rags!